An appeal to the international community to give ‘speedy help’ to support Christian populations of the Middle East, was made in a joint statement by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby on 21 November.
The two leaders called for cooperation among Christians to rebuild Syria and Iraq in coming years.
“We ought not to forget preventative measures against the ideology of extremism that has spread throughout the world under the influence of militants like an epidemic,” they said in their statement which marked the Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit this week to Moscow.
“We call upon the world’s religious and political leaders to unite in their efforts to come up with an effective response to extremism,” they declared.
The two leaders agreed that interreligious dialogue was an important initiative. “Difference in doctrine ought not to serve as an obstacle to representatives of various religions living in peace and harmony, which are the pledge of a good future for the whole world.”
The two leaders said there was persecution of Christians in both the Middle East and Africa: “manifested in mass killings, the barbaric destruction of churches, the desecration of holy sites and the expulsion of millions of people from their homes.”
They also noted more subtle forms of discrimination designed to make it easier for Christians to leave their ancient homeland than to stay.
“At the present moment the war has taken away tens of thousands of lives and left millions of people homeless and without the means for existence,” they stated. They argued that it was a necessity to retain a Christian presence in the Middle East and called for the return of refugees under conditions which guaranteed their security and the restoration of social infrastructure and living accommodation.