Gregorios III delivers word on Syrian Crisis at Taiwan conference
Wed 24 Sep 2014 at 13:46
NNA – Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and President of the Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs in Syria, Gregarious III Laham delivered the following word on Wednesday at a conference in Taiwan about immigration across the world:
“As Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and President of the Assembly of Catholic Hierarchs in Syria I have been making many visits in order to echo the voice of Pope Francis (who brought about a miracle on 7 September last year by his call for prayer to stop the war on Syria) and ask everyone to pray every day without fail for my country, (where our people have been suffering in a war that has lasted for over three years) so that the cradle of Christianity may again be at peace.
I have to stress that this war is not what we normally think of as civil war – with Syrians fighting Syrians – but is rather a disastrous influx of more than two thousand outside groups intent upon destabilising Syrian society as we have known it for millennia. In my experience of life in Syria and other Arab countries, Christianity and Islam have been living together for some 1435 Islamic years (or 1392 years by the Christian or civil calendar).
The suffering of Christians is not caused by Muslim hostility to Christians, but rather by fundamentalist elements who have entered our country with only violence in mind against every Syrian.
The fact that the millions of refugees include both Muslims and Christians shows that this is not a Syrian Muslim-Christian conflict but that the whole of Syrian society is destabilised and targeted by murderous mercenaries.
Over one hundred thousand have been killed, eight million displaced, two million children traumatised, hundreds of villages destroyed, thousands of persons of all ages and both genders abducted for ransom, raped, or otherwise assaulted, shelled, abused and intimidated. Thousands of Christians’ homes have been destroyed, ninety-one churches destroyed or damaged, and twenty-four villages emptied of their Christian inhabitants; more than one thousand Christians (both civilians and military personnel) have been killed. About 450,000 Christians have become refugees inside and outside Syria.
The Melkite Patriarchate of Damascus engages in emergency aid within Syria and works with religious communities, UN agencies and NGOs to provide support to enable our people to stay in Syria unless they are in tremendous danger. Special thanks goes to all our partners in aid work.
Syria’s Christian Churches reject any sort of foreign intervention in Syria because we are firmly convinced that violence leads to violence and weapons to other weapons. All peace-building processes must be Syrian-led. We call upon all local and international leaders to make every effort to protect civilians in Syria and for Church and State leaders to prepare carefully for a Geneva 3 Peace Conference.
Don’t destroy Syria and its children to bring about regime change! We believe in our nation, our country and our president. As Christians we want to be the first to develop our society. We want to stay together; we ought to stay together: we can do so.
Our presence as Christians is significant because of the role we play. Our presence is meaningless if we have no role. Pope St John Paul II discerned the importance of that role and presence when he said: “Palestine is the spiritual homeland of every Christian, because it was the homeland of the Saviour of the world and of his Mother.” He also said that individuals’ “social nature is being ?with? and ?for? others.” We in Arab countries are “with” and “for.” We are the presence of Jesus and the Gospel in our predominantly Muslim Arab society. Give us peace so that we can stay and not leave.
Pray for the Palestinian cause and resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and you will resolve fifty per cent of the Arab world’s problems and fanaticism. Resolving this conflict is what guarantees the Christian presence in Arab countries.
It is possible for us to live together as Christians, Muslims and Jews as we did before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. All big cities in the Arab world were hosting successful, prosperous Jewish communities. Israel wanted them to leave Arab countries for Israel. Leave us in peace to live together and resolve our problems without outside intervention.
Succeeding in reaching a political solution to the crisis in Syria is key to peace in the Arab world and the whole world; to Arab unity, Christian and Muslim living together in the Middle East and the cure for fanaticism in Europe and America.
We wonder, what can the divided Syrian opposition offer? Armed insurgents, bandits and fanatical extremists. What too can the West offer us? Of course we want development and prosperity but should we kill people and destroy a country in order to obtain that? Is the war in Syria aiming to produce freedom, justice and equality or just profits for foreign arms dealers?
We respectfully appeal to all leaders: listen to the voice of the Church in Syria.
This emigration has grave, painful and dangerous consequences. It is severely affecting all our parishes and communities in the Arab world, especially in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, which means the East becoming void of Christians.
Emigration means the gradual loss of pluralism and diversity in the Arab world and of the great opportunities for human and religious Muslim-Christian dialogue and daily, social co-existence of cultures visible in the fabric of daily life.
I am working to create a Syrian think-tank of committed Christian intellectuals concerned by the difficulties facing Syrian society. It will formulate a charter for the practical involvement of Christians in all sectors of our Syrian society.
I appeal to all Arab countries to be united. Young people long to see Arab unity, which is the best basis for solving the Palestinian case and fostering development in Arab countries and creating respect for the dignity of their citizens and promoting freedom and democracy.
The Church in Syria is called to the ministry of reconciliation (Musalaha). Jesus came not for one nation but to gather all the people of God into one. We do not wish to be under allegiance to anyone: no one has the right to speculate on us, limit us to a faction, own us, arm us, or entice us to adopt this or that attitude. We stand for reconciliation.”