The head of the Syriac Orthodox Church has condemned the spread of "hatred" and thanked God for his protection after being targeted for assassination in Syria last week.
Patriarch Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, was presiding over an event at the St Gabriel School in Qamishly, northeastern Syria, on June 18 when a suicide bomber detonated explosives nearby.
The assailant had been stopped at a security checkpoint outside the school hall by Sutoro security officials, part of the Assyrian Christian militia.
Two guards died in the attack, and Patriarch Ignatius said they were "martyrs" in a statement released after the incident.
"His Holiness gives thanks to God Almighty for protecting him and all the others who participated in the said event, by His divine care," the statement said.
"He prays for the souls of the martyrs, especially the two young people who lost their lives as a result of this act of terrorism, and offers condolences to their families. He likewise prays for the quick recovery of the injured."
The Patriarch thanked church officials, members of the clergy, government officials and Christians more generally who had offered sympathy and prayers.
"His Holiness prays the Lord to bless Syria with peace and security so that these difficult times come to an end and life returns to normal in this dear country Syria," the statement added.
"This terroristic act is planned and executed by people who want to spread hatred and create division among the people of the region. Such acts cause great suffering to the people and aim at destroying the unity of our beloved country Syria."
The incident was the fourth terrorist attack in Wusta, a predominantly Assyrian and Armenian neighbourhood in Qamishly. According to campaign group A Demand For Action, such attacks are seen "as a way to force the remaining Christians in Qamishly, a city built by them, to flee."
Patriarch Aphrem said following the attack: "I would like to see Christians remaining here in their homeland of their ancestors.
"The blood of our martyrs has been mixed with the soil of this land, Bethnahrin for many centuries."