Archbishop of Canterbury and Russian Orthodox leader issue joint appeal for Middle East Christians

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill have issued a joint statement that asked the international community for help in supporting the persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

(REUTERS / Jean Pierre)The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby poses after attending a mass at the Cathedral Saint Etrinite in Burundi's capital Bujumbura, February 1, 2014.

Archbishop Welby was in Moscow, Russia, for a three-day visit from Nov. 20-22 that started with a question-and-answer session at the St. Andrew's Church. The Anglican leader also formally introduced the Revd Malcolm Rogers to Patriarch Kirill as his representative, the Anglican News detailed.

After Welby's meeting with the Patriarch, they released the joint appeal expressing support for persecuted believers in the Middle East. They decried the mass killings, demolished churches, displacement of millions of Christians, and other forms of persecution in many parts of the Middle East and Africa.

"We appeal to the international community to render speedy help to support the Christian and other populations of the Middle East," the joint statement read in part. "Wide-scale humanitarian aid is needed for those who are suffering and for the vast numbers of refuges, including those who have ended up in Europe and America."

In light of the suffering of Christians because of persecution, Archbishop Welby and Patriarch Kirill called on religious and political leaders worldwide to unite in fighting extremism. They cited interreligious dialogue as a good place to start, saying the differences in their doctrines should not hinder their efforts to foster peace and harmony.

According to Archbishop Welby's website, his visit to Russia also included meetings with Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev and other senior political figures in the country. His schedule also reflected a speaking engagement at the British Ambassador to Russia's residence, Christian Today reported.

Welby's visit came in the wake of U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's accusation against Russia that it had published fake stories and interfered with elections. She recently said Vladimir Putin's government was "threatening international order" and sowing discord in the Western world.