His Holiness Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II visited His Excellency President Joahim Gauck at the Bellevue Presidential Palace in Berlin on Thursday July 7, 2016.The Patriarch was accompanied by bishop Philoxenus Mattias Nayis, Patriarchal Vicar in Germany, bishop Julius Hanna Aydin, Director of Foreign Affairs in Germany, bishop Timotheos Matta Al-Khoury, Patriarchal Vicar in the Patriarchal Archdiocese of Damascus, Very Rev. Raban Joseph Bali, Patriarchal Secretary and Media Office Director, Mr. Davut Aslan, Head of the Diocese Council, Mr. Daniel Elias and MP of Hamburg and Mr. David Erkalp.
According to the German presidential office release, the focus of the conversation with the Patriarch was the exchange of information about the current situation of Christians in Syria and Iraq. The presidential message says further:The [situation] is of great concern to me", states the president. "In this diverse and historicly civilized region, in which Christianity has its home since the early days, the life of Christians, among others, is existentially threatened by war and Islamist terror. Christians are expelled from their homes. kidnapped, murdered; their homes confiscated, their churches and monasteries taken over or destroyed, and their clergy abducted.Hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled the region or are homeless as IDPs.Christians are also becoming victims of Islamist terror -- similar to Yazidis, Shiites and Sunnis, who do not share the radical views of Islamist terrorists. Last February the European Parliament particularly condemned the persecution of religious minorities as a war crime, crimes against humanity and genocide."Do not forget the Christians," warned the British Jewish publisher George Weidenfeld shortly before his death earlier this year. We urgently need a political solution to the conflict in Syria and the pacification of the Middle East. The observance of human rights, the right to religious freedom and the security of minorities must be guaranteed. I am grateful for efforts on humanitarian level that already start to take effect. And I am grateful to all the people who work to ensure that many persecuted can find a safe refuge in Germany.The Patriarch also discussed the situation of the refugees in Germany with the President and expressed gratitude for his efforts in the centennial debate of the Genocide of 1915 and the role the President played in the German Bundstag (Parliament) passing a resolution to recognize it as genocide (AINA 2016-06-06).In April 2015, prior to German Bundestag's parliamentary commemoration debate of the genocide, the Patriarch sent an open letter to the German President Joachim Gauck, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Parliament President Norbert Lammert (AINA 2015-04-20) and called on Germany to recognize the genocide of Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks perpetrated by Ottoman Turks during World War One.
Concluding the meeting with the German President, the Patriarch asked for help in the case of the two abducted Archbishops of Aleppo, Gregorius Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji and German efforts for their safe and immediate return. Furthermore, His Holiness also spoke about the situation of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Germany and its recognition under public-law in Germany.
More than 130,000 Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) belonging to different in Germany. The majority are members of the Syriac Orthodox Church, which has more than 50 parishes in Germany. The Syriac Catholic Church, the Chaldean-Catholic Church and Assyrian Church of the East as well as the Syriac Evangelical Churches have parishes as well.