“It is not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems,” said the Pontiff, “but rather the ability to meet and dialogue.” The Holy Father called on the entire international community to do everything in their power to help those in the “beloved Syrian nation” to find a solution to the ongoing conflict through dialogue and negotiation.
Pope Francis steadfastly renewed his appeal for peace in Syria and throughout the world today – Wednesday September 4, 2013 – as he invited Roman Catholics, Christians of every denomination, believers of other religious traditions and “all people of good will” around the globe, to join in the day of worldwide fasting and a vigil of prayer and penance this coming Saturday for the intention of peace, once more in Syria, one of the most ancient civilizations in the world.
The Holy Father noted that Saturday is the vigil of the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, Queen of Peace, and the faithful who are located in Rome – including all of the pilgrims who have come from near and far to visit the city – to take part in the prayer vigil to be held in St. Peter's Square beginning at 7 p.m., and continuing until midnight:
With great suffering and concern I continue to follow the situation in Syria. The increase in violence in a war between brothers, with the proliferation of massacres and atrocities, that we all have been able to see in the terrible images of these days, leads me once again raise my voice that the clatter of arms may cease. It is not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue.
From the bottom of my heart, I would like to express my closeness in prayer and solidarity with all the victims of this conflict, with all those who suffer, especially children, and I invite you to keep alive the hope of peace. I appeal to the international community to be more sensitive to this tragic situation and make every effort to help the beloved Syrian nation find a solution to a war that sows destruction and death.
For those who may be somewhat surprised to learn of the integration of Christianity and Islam in Syria, about 10 percent of the present population in Syria is Christian, and the largest denomination is the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East.
One of the earliest events in the papacy of Pope Francis was to express his concern for the fate of Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos al-Yazigi - Syrian Orthodox and Greek-Orthodox bishops of Aleppo, who were kidnapped in April of 2013, near the Syrian border with Turkey.
At the time, the Vatican News Service reported:
"The Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim had offered his collaboration to allow Boulos al-Yazigi to return to the diocese and to share with his priests and faithful the suffering endured by all due to the civil war. On Monday morning Mar Gregorios had gone with his driver to the border with Turkey specifically to pick up the Greek-Orthodox bishop on his return to Syria and together were supposed to return to Aleppo, believing that they could travel on routes considered "safe", which on other occasions had allowed him to return to the Syrian city from the Turkish border. Shortly after confirming to some Greek-Orthodox priests living in Turkey their re-union in Syrian territory, the two bishops became untraceable. ...
The Organization for Islamic Cooperation has condemned the kidnapping of the two bishops. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of Pan-Islamic body, has appealed for their, "immediate and unconditional" release, insisting that their seizure "contradicts the principles of authentic Islam, and the high status reserved to the Christian clergy in Islam."
Four months thereafter, the fate of the two Bishops is still unknown.
In the book, "Syrian Christians Under Islam: The First Thousand Years," David Thomas serves as Editor of the volume, which also features a foreword by the Syrian Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo.
The book includes the papers of the Third Woodbrooke-Mingana Symposium on Arab Christianity and Islam, focusing specifically the theme, "Arab Christianity in 'Greater Syria' in the pre-Ottoman Period."
There is a history of the first millennium of Islamic rule and its affects on various aspects of Syrian Christian life. Of particular interest in Samir K. Samir's treatment of the Prophet Muhammed "as seen through Arab Christian eyes." Overall, it is of particular interest in observing in this very important period of transition how Christians were reacting to the cultural, intellectual and spiritual influence of the practice of Islam.