WASHINGTON — Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director of the Eastern Diocese, was among the religious leaders taking part in an interfaith prayer service at Georgetown University on February 14, in the wake of a series of earthquakes that have shaken the Near East this month.
The service was led by Archbishop Elpidophoros, leader of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He was joined by clergy from church communities with ancient roots in the region, including the Greek Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, and Armenian churches. Alongside other faith figures from the United States, the attendees prayed for those who lost their lives, or who were injured, displaced, and devastated by one of the worst natural disasters to impact the region.
According to news reports, the death toll from the quake approaches 50,000 individuals, with untold numbers of people injured, missing, and homeless. More than a million people are estimated to be living in temporary shelters or tents.
At the Georgetown prayer service, Archbishop Elpidophoros shared that his own family members living in the earthquake zone had been impacted by the disaster. He noted that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese was partnering with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to help address both the immediate needs and the longer-term implications of the devastation.
Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, interim President and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., gave greetings on behalf of the ecumenical organization and offered a message. Archbishop Vicken Aykazian—himself a former NCC President, and a current member of its Governing Board—also offered remarks and a prayer.
Ambassador Hasan Murat Mercan of Turkey’s Embassy in Washington, DC, gave a personal message, naming churches, mosques, and temples damaged or destroyed. Also at the prayer service were representatives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, International Orthodox Christian Charities, as well as representatives of Jewish and Islamic groups.