«God is present among us, my brothers and sisters, when we see hope in the eyes of a child forced to become homeless and leave his city Mosul in Iraq to an unknown fate. […] God is present among us, when we see a father who lost his whole family - a father, mother, wife and two children - to barbaric acts of killings in Sadad, Syria and still able to peacefully smile and happily submit to the will of God Whom he knows is near him in his distress.» These are the words of His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church in his homily in the ecumenical liturgy. This liturgy was also the start of the Meeting Peace is the Future, Religions and Cultures in Dialogue 100 Years after World War I, organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio in Antwerp from 7th - 9th September.
Numerous representatives of Eastern and Protestant Churches also took part in the ecumenical liturgy in the Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal in Antwerp.
Mons. Johan Bonny, Bishop of Antwerp, said in his homily: «It is our desire to dialogue with one another in an atmosphere of brotherhood and reconciliation. We also want to make a statement towards our society and the world community. As religions we badly need a more peaceful world and we are willing to work for this.»
Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the worldwide conflict, the bishop added: «In these days we devoutly commemorate all victims of the First World War. But not only them. We feel close to all victims of present-day war and violence, along so many frontlines spread all over the world.»
After the celebration all the leaders of Christian communities came to the square outside the cathedral. Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II was greeted by many refugees from the Middle East living in Belgium and worried about the fate of their city and homeland.