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E. Aydin: The Crisis in Syria in a Broader Context - Thoughts on a Solution

Speech at the UPF Interfaith Consultation on the Crisis in Syria
Amman, Jordan, October 11-13, 2013

Published in Dialogue & Alliance, Vol. 27, No. 2, 2013

As a Christian, as a priest and as chorepiskopos of the Syrian-Orthodox Church I am a witness to the gospel of truth, the gospel of justice, mercy and the love of God. From this starting point I will unfold all my following thoughts.

Let me quote a verse from the Holy Scripture at the beginning of my deliberations. The Holy Spirit spoke through the Prophet Isaiah: “And the work of righteousness shall be peace.” (Isaiah 32:17a)

Peace as a work of righteousness! What we feel deep down in our consciousness, God clearly tells us: Peace can be realized only through righteousness. Humankind has always experienced that unrighteousness always engenders unrest and tension. Yet it was never easy to realize righteousness. Unrighteousness is somewhat the normal state of mankind.

Therefore, salvation history moves on: The chosen people of Israel, yes all mankind, could not produce righteousness by their own power. The righteousness that humans owe to God could not be achieved by mankind alone. God Himself has achieved this righteousness through Jesus Christ, who has restored the damaged righteousness and gave peace to the ones who believed in him.

God appeals to mankind through Jesus Christ to be reconciled. Isaiah already prophetically proclaimed: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6-7ab) This is the path I would like to suggest. It is the path that God Himself has opened. On any other path there will be no righteousness and, therefore, no peace.

We all know that the love of one’s neighbor first came into the world through the gospel and only thereby came into effect. Jesus Christ exemplifies this in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10), and he manifested it in his life.

I wanted to say this as a foundation for concrete measures. Without this foundation any approach to find a solution will ultimately come to naught and be in vain.

First of all I would like to appeal to all my fellow Christians to be one and speak in one voice. It will be a loud and strong voice. I appeal to all fellow Christians to purify yourselves internally, to free your conscience from any burden, to discard bad habits and to re-align yourselves with God. I appeal to the church leaders to be mediators and peacemakers. The parties and political groups at enmity with each other would rather listen to men of God than to politicians. But they can only do this if the men of God themselves are transparent for God.

The churches must more boldly testify to righteousness and human dignity. As stated above, Christ has fulfilled and restored righteousness. Thereby, he restored the dignity of mankind. This context must be made public again and again.

Although we are not standing on European soil right now, I do have to say a word to the European Union: The EU-bureaucracy must take note that without the gospel there would be no Europe. Europe would be an accumulation of barbaric peoples. It was the culture of the gospel, the culture of the early church, the culture of brotherly love, grace and righteousness that made Europe become Europe. It is insane to cut off the root through which one lives. The leadership of the EU must be bold enough to include representatives of churches in their politics and legislation. To this end, becoming conscious of the roots of culture will be indispensable. Without the Ten Commandments the whole legal system would only be codified injustice.

Peace and justice in Europe are being injured when unborn children have no rights. Whoever kills unborn children destroys peace. He destroys the peace of mind and undermines the peace of society. Mankind was originally made in the image and likeness of God. Every human carries this picture within. Abortion, therefore, is like murdering God. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: “Nowadays abortion is the greatest destroyer of peace.” The protection of human life beginning from conception must be at the top of the agenda of European states. So how can we give Syria advice for peace if Europe itself has not really made peace with God?

Finally, I would like to address the massive persecution of Christians in Syria. The Holy Synod of the Syrian-Orthodox Church met in Lebanon September 10-14, 2013, and declared:

The situation of Christians in the Near East gives reason for great grief and sorrow, especially with regard to persecution, rape, terror attacks, extortion, kidnapping, destruction and murder that people in general are exposed to and Christians in particular. Churches and monasteries were destroyed as well as Christian schools and orphanages. … Christians are under threat of violence and forced to turn away from their Christian faith. They have been exposed to this suffering for only one reason: They were Christians. Many of them were tortured.

The West must take note of these crimes. My new homeland, Austria, has received numerous Syrian Christians as refugees. We are grateful for that. But it would be even better if Christians could stay in their native countries and if the West and other states would cease to support jihadist groups.

Our Syrian-Orthodox Metropolitan Eustathios Matta Roham recently said:

On the 7th of September Pope Francis called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, in the Middle East and in the whole world. I am sure that many Christians and non-Christians followed this call – everyone in their own way. But have any of the powerful reacted to this call? While the pope, who is a symbol for peace in the world, invited all people to make peace, I have not heard any response from the powerful of this Earth to this wonderful call. Not one of them stands with him.

Here is the crucial issue: The West has renounced its faith and fell away from God. If the powerful of this world would turn back to God, then peace and justice could find their way into the world. This world will never be perfect, but by the power of the Word of God it can be boldly improved. It is in the hands of the decision makers.

Therefore, I appeal one more time to the European politicians to become aware of their responsibility. Military attacks against Syria are the worst means! I appeal to all people of good will to follow your conscience, to not trust the lies of propaganda and to honestly examine yourselves before God.

Let us be assured: If we show good will, God will take care of our wounds just like the Good Samaritan did.

Dr. Emanuel Aydin was born in1947 in Midiat, in the southeastern part of Turkey. In 1969 he began studies in Vienna with the help of the ecumenical patriarch His Holiness Athenagoras. In 1973 he finished his theological studies in Vienna, London and Bayreuth and was ordained as a priest by Patriarch Mar Ignatius Yakub III in Beirut. He served as pastor of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Austria. The following year the Syrian-Orthodox Church in Austria was officially recognized.In 1999 he was ordained as a chorepiskopos (assistant bishop) by Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas. He obtained a Ph.D. in Legal Studies in 1994 from the University of Vienna. Since 1995 he has been a member of the Austrian UNESCO-Commission and from 1999 to 2003 was Vice-Chairman of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Austria.