We are writing to you on behalf of the Russian Civic Centre for the Protection of Christians in the Middle East and in North Africa, under the aegis of the oldest non-governmental organisation in Russia, the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, which has consultative status with ECOSOC, as well as on behalf of the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris.
Like many people all over the world, we are appalled at the acts of vandalism committed in Syria against holy sites, and at the acts of aggression carried out there against priests, monks and nuns who propagate to the whole world the universal human value of love for one’s neighbour.
The brutal attack carried out by militants against the ancient convent of St. Thecla in Ma’loula, and the cynical abduction of the Mother Superior and nuns, who looked after some 40 orphan girls, is an outrage for the international community and a gross violation of all the norms of the civilised world. Moreover, let us not forget the abduction of two senior Syrian bishops, Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo and Metropolitan Gregory Ibrahim, whose fate remains unknown to this day. More than 60 Christian churches have been destroyed by militants in Syria. The Christian population has been exposed to particularly horrible acts of violence. The terrible fate of persecuted and oppressed Christians, their exodus from their historic homelands, and the threat of their very annihilation — these are all sources of profound concern and sorrow for the whole Christian world.
In order to respond to this threat, the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society has created the Centre for the Protection of Christians in the Middle East and in North Africa. This Centre will do everything possible to support our brothers and sisters in faith.
We cannot stand idly by while radical Islamists and terrorist groups perpetrate outrages in Biblical lands, display their brutality, or destroy one of the great civilised populations of Syria. The United Nations should do all in its power to prevent the real and present danger of the destruction of the religious balance in the Middle East, something which would inevitably have catastrophic consequences for the whole region.
We therefore turn to you, Mr Secretary General, in the conviction that you can do everything possible to obtain the liberation of hostages and to ease of the plight of the people of Syria, for whom the Russian Orthodox Church is praying together with its Patriarch and with all Christians in Russia and around the world.
We call on the United Nations and on the Human Rights Council to respond decisively against those who encroach on the religious feelings of people and on that human life which is the gift of God. A comprehensive system needs to be elaborated for countering violations of fundamental rights of people of all confessions, as well as discrimination and religious persecution.
The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society calls upon the United Nations to make an appraisal of the anti-religious activities of extremists who kidnap children and men and women of the cloth. Such inhumane acts should be recognised as a crime by the world community.
For more than 130 years, the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society has been indissolubly associated with the Middle East and with the peoples who live there, undertaking humanitarian and educational missions designed to supported inter-confessional peace and harmony in the region. Today the holy land of Syria is flowing with blood. The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, the Centre for the Protection of Christians and the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris believe it is their duty to deliver humanitarian aid to the suffering people of Syria, which we will distribute through the good offices of religious leaders to both Christians and Muslims. We encourage all people of good will, as well as international civil organisations, to join with us in this humanitarian activity. We are ready to cooperate with the relevant departments within the UN who are undertaking humanitarian missions and whose role is to protect the rights of believers.
In the name of our organisations, we express the wish that the long-awaited peace may soon come to Syria and that the inter-confessional harmony will soon return which was always the key to the prosperity of that country.
Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society
Civic Centre for the Protection of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa
Institute of Democracy and Cooperation (Paris)