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Stories on the Church of Antioch and the Middle East

The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America is an archdiocese of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. It traces its roots to first century Antioch (modern-day Antakya, Turkey), the city in which the disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). The Patriarchate is led by His Beatitude John X from Damascus, Syria. In addition to its continuing presence in Syria and Lebanon, the Antiochian Patriarchate has archdioceses in Europe; Asia; North, Central and South America; and Australia and New Zealand.

The Church of Antioch was established by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas in 42 A.D., with St. Peter serving for the next eight years as its first prelate. The Church of Antioch is one of the five ancient Patriarchates of the Christian Church, along with Alexandria, Constantinople, Jerusalem, and Rome. Antiochians are in full communion with other Orthodox Christian jurisdictions, such as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Orthodox Church in America, as well as many other Orthodox jurisdictions around the world.

 

Latest News

Syria Update from the 2015 Boston Antiochian General Assembly

A video highlighting the situation of the Church in Syria which was presented at this morning's General Assembly:

OCA's All American Council Adopts Resolution of Solidarity with Suffering Middle East Christians

From Oca.org:

Thursday morning, July 23, 2015, and during the AAC's fifth Plenary Session, delegates to the 18th All-American Council adopted a resolution expressing the Orthodox Church in America's solidarity with Christians suffering persecution in the Middle East and calling on governments to do everything possible to ensure their safety.

Presented by Dr. Paul Meyendorff and adopted by acclamation, the text of the resolution reads as follows.

"Whereas recent developments in the Middle East have caused great suffering to Christians in the area, leading to numerous deaths, desperate living conditions and mass movement of refugees, we, gathered at the 18th All-American Council in Atlanta, Georgia, express our solidarity and support for all suffering peoples in the area, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we call on our respective governments to take vigorously all possible political and humanitarian measures to ensure their safety and the survival of Christianity in the lands where it first took hold."

In a video produced by International Orthodox Christian Charities, introduced by Rada Tierney, the plight of the three million refugees and persons displaced from Syria and the measures being taken by the Patriarchate of Antioch and IOCC to alleviate their suffering were highlighted. In response to a recommendation by Archpriest John Zdinak, delegates spontaneously donated nearly $12,000.00 to assist IOCC in its ongoing ministry in the Middle East.

Patriarch John X to Speak about Christians in Middle East

His Beatitude Patriarch John XHis Beatitude Patriarch John XThe Most Blessed John X (Yazigi), Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, will be visiting St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary on Monday, July 27, 2015, to receive an honorary doctoral degree conferred by the seminary Board of Trustees and Faculty Council. The degree will be awarded at a public academic convocation at 6:00 p.m. in the Metropolitan Philip Auditorium of the John G. Rangos Family Building, during which His Beatitude will also give a presentation about the current circumstances of Christians in the Middle East. A public reception will follow.

“As Executive Chair of the Board of Trustees of St. Vladimir’s Seminary,” said Alex Machaskee, “I am extremely pleased that we are conferring an honorary doctorate on His Beatitude John X, patriarch of Antioch and All the East.”

Patriarch John X Visits Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology

On Monday morning, July 20, 2015, His Beatitude Patriarch John X visited Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA. His visit to the beautiful campus included an extensive tour of the grounds, a service in the Holy Cross Chapel, and a luncheon. Patriarch John was hosted by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and accompanied by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph and other distinguished hierarchs, clergy, and lay leaders.

During the luncheon, several seminarian scholarships were announced, in honor of the Patriarch and Metropolitan Joseph, and in memory of Metropolitan Philip of Blessed Memory. His Beatitude was also presented with gifts, one of which was a hand painted icon of the Apostle Paul in honor of Patriarch John's brother, Metropoltian Paul of Aleppo, whose whereabouts remain unknown following his abduction two years ago.

Syrian Refugees Surge into Serbia Seeking Asylum

Syrian refugees gather outside of the police station in Presevo, Serbia, where they are waiting to be registered for assistance. IOCC is providing meals to the weary travelers as well as to local people in need. photo: Nenad Preleveic/IOCCSyrian refugees gather outside of the police station in Presevo, Serbia, where they are waiting to be registered for assistance. IOCC is providing meals to the weary travelers as well as to local people in need. photo: Nenad Preleveic/IOCCBaltimore, MD (IOCC) — One thousand miles separate Syria and Serbia, but the desperation to flee their war-torn country is driving thousands of refugees from Syria, as well as some from Afghanistan and other countries to make the long and dangerous journey. Their trek is a combination of boats, buses, trains, and walking. Many land in Greece first. From there, they head north on foot, walking hundreds of miles through the Balkans to the European Union. In the past six months, more than 37,000 refugees have endured rough terrain, temperatures hovering near 100 degrees, a lack of food and water, and violent attacks from predatory gangs along the way to reach Serbia.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Serbia is receiving by far the largest percentage of refugees seeking international protection in southeastern Europe. The refugees are using the route through Serbia to reach their desired final destination of Western Europe. Now Serbian authorities face an emerging crisis as they struggle to care for the growing masses of exhausted, hungry, and injured refugees making the arduous journey to hoped-for asylum.

St. Vladimir’s Seminary to Confer Honorary Degree on Patriarch John X

(L to R) Fr. John Behr, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, Patriarch John, Fr. Chad Hatfield (photo: Dn. G. Hatrak)(L to R) Fr. John Behr, His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, Patriarch John, Fr. Chad Hatfield (photo: Dn. G. Hatrak)[SVOTS Communications / Yonkers, NY] The Most Blessed John X (Yazigi), Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, will be visiting St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary on Monday, July 27, 2015, to receive an honorary doctoral degree conferred by the seminary Board of Trustees and Faculty Council. The degree will be awarded at a public academic convocation at 6:00 p.m. in the Metropolitan Philip Auditorium of the John G. Rangos Family Building, during which His Beatitude will also give a presentation about the current circumstances of Christians in the Middle East. A public reception will follow.

"As Executive Chair of the Board of Trustees of St. Vladimir's Seminary," said Alex Machaskee, "I am extremely pleased that we are conferring an honorary doctorate on His Beatitude John X, patriarch of Antioch and All the East."

Seminary Dean, the Very Reverend Dr. John Behr, added, "It is our joy to welcome Patriarch John to our campus, and it is our honor that he is willing to accept a Doctor of Divinity honoris causa from our school." Father John also mentioned that His Beatitude is known to him through a personal connection: he is a fellow monk at the Monastery of St. Paul on Mount Athos (Agiou Pavlou), the same monastic community at which Fr. John's brother, Fr. Evdokimos, resides.

Syrian Refugees Risk Lives To Find Safety In Greece

June 30, 2015

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Summer is the height of tourist season in the Greek isles, but Amina, 35, isn't on the island of Chios with her husband and three young sons for a vacation. The Syrian refugee family is in flight from Damascus. Their long and arduous trek took them through Lebanon and into Turkey, where they hiked a grueling 200 miles across the country to reach a boat that would carry them to safety in Greece.

Also part of their group were several Syrian youth under 18 traveling alone or with distant relatives, like Sahir, 17, a member of Amina's extended family. They travel at great risk with the hope to reach Western Europe and register as underage refugees, which would allow their parents to join them.

The eastern Aegean isles have been inundated by the flow of Syrian refugees arriving by sea. The island of Chios, which lies just four miles from Turkey, has received more than 7,000 newcomers since last March.

Assyrian Children Bear Scars Of War, Face New Challenges In Exile

Cynthia, 9, and her classmate, David, 8, are among 128 Assyrian refugee students receiving IOCC assistance to continue their schooling in Lebanon: photo: Ramzi Haidar/IOCCCynthia, 9, and her classmate, David, 8, are among 128 Assyrian refugee students receiving IOCC assistance to continue their schooling in Lebanon: photo: Ramzi Haidar/IOCCJune 18, 2015

Baltimore, MD (IOCC) — Desperate to flee the onslaught of violence surrounding his village near Hasakah, Syria, Charbel remembers how frightened he was when his family barely escaped their home before they saw it destroyed by their attackers. The 14-year-old Assyrian boy left behind all of his possessions, friends, and school, but still carries his memories of Syria before the war and a wish to become a dentist someday.

Cynthia, 9, lived through similar terror when she and her parents were forced to quickly leave their home in the Syrian village of Tel Arbosh at dawn as the sounds of shooting could be heard in the distance. She is not sure what happened to her house or the family's belongings. Cynthia says she feels safe in Lebanon, but misses her school in Syria where she excelled at reading and writing in her third grade class.

Assyrian Christians, an ethnic minority group who speak a modern form of the Aramaic language spoken by Jesus, are being forced out of lands they have occupied for millennia. More than 1,000 Assyrian families from Syria have found safety behind Lebanon's borders after being targeted last February in attacks on villages stretching along the southern bank of the Khabour River. Their attackers burned homes and churches, murdered a fleeing 16-year-old boy, and abducted more than 200 Assyrian Christian men, women and children from their homes.

Patriarchs Meet in Syria, Issue Call for Peace

L to R: Patriarchs Gregorios III, Ignatius Aphrem II, John X, Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, Ignatius Joseph IIIL to R: Patriarchs Gregorios III, Ignatius Aphrem II, John X, Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, Ignatius Joseph IIIOn Monday, June 8, 2015, the five Patriarchs of the churches of Antioch met in a summit in Damascus to discuss the plight of Christians in the Middle East. "We are authentic (people) of this land, deeply rooted in its earth that was watered by the sweat of our fathers and grandfathers, and we confirm more than ever that we are staying," noted the statement released following the meeting, which was reported in several news outlets including Reuters and Ecumenical News.

His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, was in attendance, as was Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Gregorios III of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church,, and Bechara Boutros al-Rahi of the Maronite Church. The Vatican Ambassador to Syria, Archbishop Mario Zenari, also participated. The Patriarchs called for "a culture of openness, peace and freedom of belief" in the region, and urged the international community to seek the political solutions that will lead to such conditions.  

Read more from Reuters

"Ancient Faith Presents" Interview with Samer Laham: Conflict and Relief in Syria

Samer LahamSamer LahamListen to the full interview

On May 14, 2015, Ancient Faith Radio (AFR) President John Maddex interviewed Mr. Samer Laham, Director of Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development (DERD) for the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch in Syria. The Department is a nonprofit organization belonging to and operating from the Patriarchate, located in the old city of Damascus. Mr. Laham was visiting the headquarters of the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) in Baltimore, MD, and during his visit sat down with Maddex to share his up-to-date account of the dire situation inside his homeland. 

"About 10.8 million people are in need of assistance" due to the civil war conditions in Syria, noted Maddex in his introduction. Additionally, due to the many consequences of the protracted war, "the whole population is really under hard conditions," explained Mr. Laham. Yet those who are working in relief efforts, he continued, persevere with faith, hope, and prayer. "We are the second largest organization on the ground...our vision in the future is to continue our work."