Music as the Bridge to Peace
Geneva, 8 May 2014 - Joint Communiqué by Syria's Christian leaders - Click here to download the communiqué in PDF
Christians are peace makers and bridge builders among conflicting parties
We, representatives of Christian Churches in Syria, send with one voice to the civil and spiritual leaders of the world up to their highest level this joint message: Christians speaking with one voice and joining their efforts can do a lot to restore the wounds that are bleeding and exhaust Syria and its people.
On 17 January 2014, Dr. Pieter Omtzigt, the Dutch MP and Member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, has requested all countries - in writing - to support an equal representation of Syrians by including the Christians during the Syria peace talks which is scheduled to take place in Montreux, Switzerland on Wednesday, 22 January. In his letter, endorsed by the WCA, Mr. Omtzigt describes an historic event which negatively affected the Aramean people of Turkey by referring to the peace conference in Lausanne of 1922 where the native Arameans (Syriacs) were not recognized as an indigenous ethno-religious people and therefore have not been able, until today, to benefit from the protection the treaty offers.
On Monday morning, 23 February, ISIS attacked the largely Aramean Christian villages of Tel Hormuz, Tel Shamiram, Tel Riman, Tel Nasra, al-Agibash, Toma Yalda and al-Hauz in the western countryside of the Hasakah province in north-eastern Syria. ISIS massacred a number of Arameans, took hundreds of women and children captive, burned dozens of houses and torched one of Syria’s ancient churches in the village of Tel Hormuz.
Following the attack at approximately 4.30 a.m., Aramean Christian and Kurdish Muslim defense forces mobilized themselves to withstand a further ISIS onslaught and to attempt to liberate the fallen villages. In the process, they seized a number of terrorists, which ISIS now demands to exchange with the over 100 Aramean men taken hostage in the villages, threatening to kill them if this demand is not met.
Given the fierce movement of ISIS fighters from their self-proclaimed capital, Raqqah, the Syrian army is helping the Christian and Kurdish villages along the Khabur River, nearby the large village of Tel Tamar. Recently, the fighting flared up in this area as the inhabitants of these Aramean villages have continued to observe ISIS terrorists encroaching further and further onto their lands.
Locals believe that the next step of ISIS is to take down the strategically important village of Tel Tamar, which houses over 10.000 Arameans and is close to Ras al-Ayn. ISIS would thus create a doorway towards the Turkish border that could facilitate the procurement of both weapons and mercenaries through Turkey into Syria. As ISIS moved into the region, residents of the impacted Khabur River area claimed to have seen fighter jets of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition flying over the countryside. Unfortunately, this did not prevent the massive attack on the Aramean Christian population as reports suggest that the terrorists were not attacked at all by the US-led coalition.
In the last decade, similar genocidal attacks against the Aramean people have occurred in Syria and Iraq. They are easy targets in their homeland, where they suffer from killings, rapes, pillaging, kidnappings and expulsions. Most of their ancestral lands have already been emptied. Soon there will be very few Aramean Christians left in Syria and Iraq. Just today, again hundreds of Arameans from neighboring areas of the Khabur area were evacuated by buses to safer places in the region.
Johny Messo, the President of the World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”), expresses his deep concerns about the ongoing situation: “For years we have called upon the UN Member States to speak up against these atrocity crimes, and to prevent new ones from taking place. Today we find ourselves once again speechless considering their deafening silence and indifference towards the Aramean people. We demand from politicians to raise their moral voice, to investigate these ongoing crimes against humanity and to do something, anything, to break this wall of silence.”
It is noteworthy that the Aramean victims of the targeted Syrian Khabur River villages are members of the ‘Nestorian’ Church which, since 1976, has been named the Assyrian Church of the East. After the massacres by the Turks and Kurds in the early decades of the last century, many tens of thousands of Aramean Christians of different churches were forced to escape from their homes in Southeast Turkey to Northeast Syria.
Until the war started, the Christians constituted 10% (2,3 million) of Syria’s national population. Hundreds of thousands of Arameans have already fled their war-torn country. The Aramean people have retained their 3,000-year old Aramaic mother tongue, which is widely known as the language of Jesus, and they are indigenous to Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon. However, in none of these countries they are officially recognized as a distinct people where they consequently continue to struggle for recognition and survival. Therefore, your voice and support is very much needed.
One day before the start of the conference, titled: "Christians: The Challenge of Speaking with One Voice," the WCA has been receiving many supportive messages from different civil society and religious organisations in and outside of Syria. One of them came from the President of the Federation of Alevi Foundations ("AVF") in Turkey, Mr. Dogan Bermek, who expressed his solidarity and support to the historic conference which is taking place in Geneva today. Follow this link, to view the details of the conference or this link to read the Press Release on the conference (7 May 2014).
Turkey's Alevi community during prayers
Hengelo, 13 december 2013
ETNISCHE ZUIVERINGEN CHRISTENEN IN SYRIË: OPROEP TOT HULP EN INFORMATIEVERGARING BZ?
Geachte leden van de Vaste Commissie voor Buitenlandse Zaken,
Namens de World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) en onze dochterorganisatie de Suryoye Aramese Federatie Nederland (“SAFN”) vragen wij wederom uw dringende aandacht voor de aanhoudende etnische zuiveringen, de sluimerende genocide en de massale exodus van de inheemse christelijke bevolking van Syrië, waar wij hetzelfde ervaren als eerder in Zuidoost-Turkije en Irak.
1. Op 9 juli 2013 was er een Aramese delegatie naar Den Haag afgereisd om het ministerie van Buitenlandse zaken (vertegenwoordigd door dhr. H. Quarles van Ufford, plaatsvervangend directeur Noord-Afrika en Midden-Oosten) in te lichten over de voornoemde punten.
2. Op 17 oktober jl. vond hetzelfde plaats. In samenwerking met Kerk in Actie werd ditmaal de Syrisch-orthodoxe bisschop Z.E. Dionysius Jean Kawak uit Damascus uitgenodigd om de Vaste Commissie (voorgezeten door CDA-Kamerlid dhr. P. Omtzigt) alsmede de Directie Stabiliteit en Humanitaire Hulp (onder leiding van mw. M. Jansen) hierover te informeren. Zie: Syriac Orthodox Bishop from Damascus asks Dutch and German Parliaments, Media and Christian NGOs for Help
3. Tijdens deze ontmoetingen en in de daaropvolgende periode hebben wij, evenals onze zusterorganisatie de Aramese Beweging voor Mensenrechten (ABM), u allen en Z.E. dhr. F. Timmermans (Minister van BZ) afdoende documentatie doen toekomen via onze websites en mailinglijsten over de hachelijke positie van de Aramese christenen in en rondom Syrië.
Edesa Mutlu (SAFN) overhandigt de petitie betreffende de situatie van christenen in Syrië aan de Vaste Commissie voor Buitenlandse Zaken
Damascus, Syria - On August 16, 2014, His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, sent the WCA and its member federation in Germany a letter of appreciation regarding their efforts to ensure humanitarian aid to the Arameans of Syria. It is not the first time the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East expressed his support for the WCA and its Member Federations. Last April, His Holiness blessed the WCA's mission and endeavours (view the statement).
On Monday 22 April 2013, today 300 days ago, two prominent Archbishops from the Syriac and Melkite (Greek) Orthodox Churches were abducted between Kafer Dael and Mansura, in one of the most dangerous areas in Syria known as the frontline between the Free Syrian Army and the regular army. Their car was intercepted and the driver, Mr Fatha’ Allah Kabboud, was cold-bloodedly shot dead, either during or shortly after the assault. The World Council of Arameans (Syriacs) (“WCA”) asks the international community for urgent help.
After the recent attacks by militant Islamic forces against the ancient Aramean towns of Maaloula and al-Raqqa, the world recently witnessed another organized assault against the Biblical towns of Sadad and Hafar. Sadly Maaloula is again the target of the Syrian rebel forces as they aim fire at innocent indigenous Christians and their lands, seemingly with the goal of expunging Syria’s Christian population from their homeland.
On 4 September, Jubhat al-Nusra, a terrorist group associated with Al-Qaeda in Syria, had violently entered Maaloula, killing a number of innocent Christians and destroying the town’s historic buildings. At the time, many of the Christians of Maaloula were told by the rebels that they had to convert to Islam or face death, thereby forcing some 3,000 civilians to escape from Maaloula in order to save their lives and those of their families. A month later, seven militant rebel groups joined forces in laying siege on the Biblical town of Sadad. Before the Syrian Army liberated Sadad, Jubhat al-Nusra and the Katibat al-Mahawer brigade of the Free Syrian Army held 1,500 Aramean Christian families hostage for a full week and used them as human shields. Hostages included defenceless women and children and many deaths of the innocent resulted.