His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, issued the following remarks on December 5, 2013 at a press conference in Balamand, Lebanon:
Amidst the calamities besetting Syria and the bloodshed afflicting our people and amidst the uncertainty that still surrounds the fate of our metropolitans Boulos and Youhanna in Aleppo, it is with deep pain that the Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East has received news of the abduction of her daughters, nuns and orphans of the Monastery of Saint Thekla in Maaloula on December 2, 2013 and their being transported to Yabroud. Because our initial attempts to obtain the release our abducted daughters did not achieve the desired outcome, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East calls upon the international community and all governments to intervene and make efforts to release them safely. She likewise calls upon the conscience of all humanity and upon the spark of living conscience that the Creator, may He be exalted, sowed in the souls of all those who worship God, including the kidnappers, to release our sisters the nuns and the girls of the orphanage.
Our appeal to the international community: Although we are grateful for all the feelings of solidarity, we no longer need denunciation, condemnations, or “feelings of concern” about the assault on human dignity that is occurring, because all this is engraved in the conscience of every one of us. Today, however, we need concrete actions, not words. We do not want voices of condemnation from decision-makers, whether regional or international, but rather efforts, pressure and action leading to the release of those whose only fault was their clinging to their monastery and refusing to leave it.
We reiterate our call to stop the logic of conflict in Syria and replace it with the logic of peaceful dialogue and not to use stalling the start of dialogue to make gains on the ground because Syria is bleeding and with her too our hearts. Let all know that one drop of innocent blood shed on this earth is holier and more precious than all the slogans in the world. Let all understand the the bells of our churches, we the Christians of the Middle East, which were hung and rang in time immemorial, shall continue to ring out and be heard as the sound of our love and our peace for others, with their various religions, throughout the world.
The cruelty of the present days shall not uproot us from our land, because it is our being, our essence and a piece of our heart. Given the new circumstances exemplified by the abduction of the nuns and orphans of Maaloula, with regret we announce the suspension of our official patriarchal pastoral visit to our children and parishes in the countries of the Arabian Gulf, which had been scheduled between the sixth and seventeenth of December 2013, and our return to Damascus to follow closely all efforts and communications related to this latest incident. I greet all of our children in those countries and all those who labored to prepare the schedule for the aforementioned visit. I hope that my visit to them will be at the nearest opportunity. You, our children in the Gulf, you whose sweet and honored faces, dear to my heart I was eagerly looking forward to meeting tomorrow, I apologize to you all for suspending this visit after you had made all arrangements for its success. I pray for your health, blessing and success. May God protect Syria, Lebanon and the Middle East and the people of the Middle East.
Thank you to the media who have made it possible for Antioch’s pain and Antioch’s hope to be heard in all the world.
Translation provided with permission by Notes on Arab Orthodoxy.