Communiqué of 12 October 2010

Speech of His Beatitude Gregorios III

Patriarch of Antioch and All the East

of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

 

On this second day of the Synod for the Middle East, His Beatitude Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, gave a speech on the theme of Peace, Living Together and the Christian Presence in the Middle East.

His Beatitude summarised the main theme of his Christmas Letter of 2006 by emphasising what was at stake and the dramatic consequences of Christian emigration, "Christian emigration represents a continual haemorrhage, causing Arab society to become monochrome, an entirely Muslim Middle East, over against a European society called Christian, although Europe and America are rather secularized than believing. If it were to happen... it would mean that any occasion would be propitious for a new clash of cultures, civilizations and even of religions, culminating in a destructive confrontation between the Arab and Muslim East and the Christian West, a conflict between Islam and Christianity."

COMPLETE TEXT

Speech of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III

during the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East

Rome 10 - 24 October 2010

 

Peace, living together and the Christian presence in the Middle East

 

Peace, living together and the Christian presence in the Arab world are linked together in a strong, existential way. Peace in the Middle East is the key to the welfare of the whole region.

We have always insisted upon the importance of the Christian presence in the Arab world. This unique presence is unfortunately threatened by the cycle of wars, crises and calamities that assail this region, which is the cradle of Christianity.

We consider that the calamities, crises, wars and depredations of the Middle East are the products and results of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Fundamentalist movements are similarly the results and products of this conflict, as are the discords inside Arab countries, the slowness of their development and prosperity and the growth of hatred, enmity, hopelessness and disappointment among the youth, who make up sixty per cent of their inhabitants.

The brain-drain, the emigration of thinkers, young people, moderate Muslims and especially Christians: all that weakens progress and its future; the Arab world's freedom, democracy and openness.

Christian emigration represents a continual haemorrhage, causing Arab society to become monochrome, an entirely Muslim Middle East, over against a European society called Christian, although Europe and America are rather secularized than believing. If it were to happen that the East were emptied of its Christians, it would mean that any occasion would be propitious for a new clash of cultures, civilizations and even of religions, culminating in a destructive confrontation between the Arab and Muslim East and the Christian West, a conflict between Islam and Christianity.

Faced with what we see every day in the media about the growth of fundamentalism and religious, ethnic and social tensions in human relations, we feel that there is a great lack of trust between East and West, between Arab countries, in the majority Muslim, and the European and American West.

The role of Christians is to work, to harness themselves to creating an atmosphere of trust between the West on the one hand and the Arab and Muslim world on the other.

That is why we Arab Eastern Christians are telling European and American societies, "Don't try to divide Arab countries through pacts, but rather help the Arab world realize its unity and solidarity.  We tell you frankly, if you succeed in dividing the Arab world and Christians and Muslims from each other, each into their own groups, you will always live in fear of the Arab and Muslim world."

Appeal to our Muslim Brethren and Fellow Citizens

In seeking to convince our Christian faithful to stay in their homelands, where God has planted them, we find we absolutely must talk to our Muslim brethren and tell them frankly the nature of the fears that haunt us and the kind of fearful attitudes that impel some of us to emigrate. They are not just purely religious reasons, but rather have a social, ethical and cultural aspect.

So when we are talking about living together and citizenship, we are speaking of separation between religion and state, Arabism, democracy, the Arab or Muslim nation, and human rights. Laws which are based on Islam as sole or chief source of legislation and application are a source of division and quasi racial distinction between citizens on the basis of religion and are an obstacle to equality before the law, diminishing equality of citizenship. One could say the same about exploitation of fellow-citizens on the basis of religion, while the perpetrators rely on the fact of being in the majority, to humiliate their neighbours and workmates.

Those and many other such things ought to be the subject of study circles, congresses, conferences and meetings in the Arab and Muslim world. Christians and Muslims together should identify the real wound underlying the haemorrhage of Christian emigration.

We propose that the Synod Fathers launch an urgent prophetic appeal for Peace. Peace-making is the great challenge!

Peace today is the great challenge: it is the great jihad for the greatest good. It is true victory and the true guarantee for future freedom, progress, prosperity and security for our young generations, our Christian and Muslim youth, who are the future of our countries and who can really make their history, carrying the banner of faith and values in their homelands.

Gregorios III

Patriarch


Teachings of Christ

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32 ESV)

Encounter

Rejoice, O Mother of God, Virgin full of grace. * From you has risen the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, * shining upon those who are in darkness. * Rejoice also, you righteous Elder; * for you received in your arms the Deliverer of our souls, * Who has given us resurrection. (Troparion, Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

O Christ God, through Your birth You sanctified the Virgin's womb; * and blessed, as it was proper, the hands of Simeon. * Now, having come, you saved us. * Give peace to Your commonwealth in times of war * and strengthen our civil authorities, whom You have loved, O You who alone loves mankind. (Kontakion, Tone 1)

(The Feast of the Encounter is February 2nd - the 40th Day of Christmas)

Random Proverb

"The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin." (Proverbs 10:10 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Our distresses are notorious, even though we leave them untold, for now their sound has gone out into all the world. The doctrines of the Fathers are despised; apostolic traditions are set at nought; the devices of innovators are in vogue in the Churches; now men are rather contrivers of cunning systems than theologians; the wisdom of this world wins the highest prizes and has rejected the glory of the cross. Shepherds are banished, and in their places are introduced grievous wolves hurrying the flock of Christ. Houses of prayer have none to assemble in them; desert places are full of lamenting crowds. The elders lament when they compare the present with the past. The younger are yet more to be compassionated, for they do not know of what they have been deprived. All this is enough to stir the pity of men who have learnt the love of Christ; but, compared with the actual state of things, words fall very far short....

Saint Basil the Great
(Letter 90)