The main reason that led the two leaders of the Catholic Church and the Patriarchate of Moscow to meet at Havana in February 2016 is the mass persecution of Christians. “The tragic situation in which our brothers and sisters live in the Middle East, in North Africa and in many other regions has become a challenge for worldwide Christianity. This challenge cannot be left unanswered”. It was said yesterday afternoon by the Metropolitan Bishop Hilarion, president of the Department of external relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, as he spoke at the international Conference about Christians in the Middle East, which took place in Vienna to celebrate the second anniversary of the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in Moscow. “Nowadays, most of the terrorists in Syria and Iraq have been defeated”, the Metropolitan Bishops said. “However, it’s too early to say that Christians are perfectly safe in such countries”. In his speech, the Moscow delegate reviewed the cases of persecutions endured by Christians in Egypt, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and commented: “Persecution has become the common challenge for Christians of several confessions. Terrorists, who are trying to annihilate Christianity in the Middle East, make no distinction between those they have in front: Orthodox, Catholic, Armenian or Assyrian”. Hilarion then pointed out that there are, among the many abducted Christians, the two Metropolitan Bishops of Aleppo – the Syrian Orthodox Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and the Greek Orthodox Boulos Yazigi – whose traces have been lost since April 2013. In the Joint Statement signed in Cuba, the Pope and Patriarch Kirill emphasised the need to join forces anywhere needed and possible, and even now that meeting is still“ a sign of hope”, especially for Christian, Orthodox and Catholic Syrians, Hilarion said.