Norrköping, Sweden – In the presence of Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Mor Ephrem II, a new Sayfo monument was unveiled today on municipal grounds in Norrköping, Sweden. With the monument, the Syriac community in Norrköping commemorates the painful past of the Sayfo Genocide of 1915 on the Syriacs. Several speakers reflected on the past, present, and reached out for a hopeful future of coexistence. The official monument on municipal grounds symbolizes the solidarity through freedom of all Swedish and Syriac people.
After a speech by the mayor of Norrköping, Member of Swedish Parliament Lars Adaktusson, a great advocate for the rights of the Syriacs, reflected on the pain of Sayfo by referencing the reign of terror in recent years by Islamic State in the Mosul and the Nineveh Plains which caused the mass displacement of Syriacs, Yazidis, Arabs, and many others. Islamic State committed genocide on the Yazidi and Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian peoples.
Syriac Patriarch Mor Ephrem II held an emotional speech in which he remembered all martyrs of faith and ethnicity in general and in the Sayfo Genocide specifically, saying that the monument is erected for Syriacs in particular, but that it remembers all martyrs, Syriacs, Armenians, and Greeks.
The Syriac Orthodox hierarch preached a message of love and reconciliation with the Turks and Kurds, the perpetrators of the Sayfo Genocide of 1915. Below a summarized transcript of the speech in English of Patriarch Mor Ephrem II;
“It is the truth that sets us free. This is equally true for us and for the descendants of the perpetrators of Sayfo. We should know the truth, that we do not forget and that it does not happen again. Neither to us, not to any other nations or people. Some two million people were martyred for the sake of Christ and their identity: Armenians, Greeks, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syriacs.”
“There is no Syriac family that does not have grandfathers, granduncles, -aunts who perished in Sayfo. Either they were killed by the sword [Sayfo], or they died while thrown out of their homes into the roads, mountains, and deserts. Others ended up in families and religious communities which were not their own, not knowing who they [originally] are. The result of such atrocities and killings is unbelievable.”
“We, as Syriacs, only seriously started talking about it only recently really, i.e., towards the end of the twentieth century. It was here in Europe when some of our children started talking about it in the 1980s and 1990s… Since 2015, when we commemorated the centennial anniversary of Sayfo as a Church and as a people [nationally].”
“We took it as a cause for us for 2 reasons. One, to remember what happened to our forefathers… The second reason is that we may reconcile with ourselves and with the descendants of the perpetrators of Sayfo. We need reconciliation for ourselves because for a long time we did not dare talk about it. Not because we ignored it and not because we did not care, but because the wound was so deep.”
“Today we talk about it. We will talk about it for our own sake and the sake of the ones who perpetrated these atrocities, killings, and genocide against our people. We love everyone. We do not hate anybody. Jesus Christ told us to even love our enemies. And we will do that. We hope and pray that the people we love, the descendants of the perpetrators, will also understand our feelings and know that it is their own interest to recognize this genocide and to talk about it.”
“We are not after compensations. We are not after revenge. But we are after reconciliation, that is what we want. We do not hate anyone. We do not hate the Turks. We do not hate the Kurds. We love them as neighbors and people we grew up with. We want them to recognize what happened as part of healing, for us and for them too. They should know the truth because the truth will set them free. They should not be afraid of talking about it. It is good for them too. We are here to extend the hand of friendship and of peace to all. We are ready to walk with them to explore our history, to listen to the stories of our forefathers and mothers.”
“We invite our friends, our brothers and sisters, the Turks and Kurds and all others who took part in these atrocities, to sit with us and talk about it. To build together a good and better future for the generations to come. That is our mission. That is our duty.”
The ambassador to Sweden of the Syrian Arab Republic was also present at the ceremony. The Syrian Ba’ath regime loves its Christians and always likes to follow them closely.