Syrians Fighting Should 'Lay Down' Weapons, Says Leading Eastern Orthodox Church

(Photo Credit: Ecumenical Patriarchate / N. Manginas)Bartholomew I is seen at the church of Panaghia Koumariotissa at Nihori on the Bosphorus in Istanbul on August 12, 2012.

All warring parties in Syria should "lay down their weapons" in light of the humanitarian crisis developing, the leading Eastern Orthodox Church said.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, the "first among equals" of the world's 14 Eastern Orthodox churches, said in a statement it is profoundly concerned about the resurgence of violence throughout the world, including in America, Africa, throughout Europe and Asia.

The Patriarchate said it is particularly concerned about situations in the Middle East, as well as in Nigeria and Sudan.

"Clashes between Christians and Muslims in these parts of the world must be overcome by promoting love for one's neighbor as the peaceful expression of the bond uniting every human being," wrote the Chief Secretariat of the Holy Synod in a message dated August 14, but released by the Patriarchate today.

"Furthermore, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is deeply concerned about the future of the people of Syria, as well as for the future of Christianity in that country. Therefore, we are calling on all parties involved in this conflict to lay down their weapons, especially given the urgency of the humanitarian situation," he said.

The church called for dialogue and reconciliation, as well as the work of religious leaders needed to "resist war and promote peace."

"Religion cannot and should never be a basis for war and conflict, nor should it be used as an instrument of fundamentalism and fanaticism for purely political motives and ends," the Patriarchate said. "With great resolve, we have repeatedly emphasized that any crime in the name of religion is a crime against religion. In this respect, dialogue is the only hope for attaining peace."

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