Prot. N° 165/2013D
Damascus
8 April 2013

On Holy Friday, 29 March 2013, I made an appeal (the text of which is attached) to His Holiness, Pope Francis of Rome.

Today, I am making an appeal to the whole world, especially to the Heads of State of Arab countries, Western and Eastern Europe, North and South America, and to international organisations and Nobel Peace Prize winners.

I am making this same appeal as an Arab Syrian national and Greek Catholic Christian Patriarch resident in Damascus.

Syria is experiencing a lengthy, painful, bloody way of the cross stretching over all the country’s roads. All Muslim and Christian Syrians, both government and opposition, and armed groups from every quarter have all been carrying the same cross for over two years. Suffering has gone beyond all bounds. The crisis has mown down thousands upon thousands of soldiers, opponents, civilians, men, women, children, Muslim shaykhs and Christian priests.
      
The whole of Syria has become a battle-field. It has also become a place of bargaining and purchase of goods for cash only and in the interests of certain parties.   Every aspect of democracy, human rights, freedom, secularism and citizenship is lost from view and no-one cares. Everywhere is manipulation, lies and hypocrisy: a faceless war, with faceless fighters.

 

There is no safe place left in Syria.  You may think that it is safe here or unsafe there, but at any moment, you may be killed by a bomb, missile or bullet, not to mention being kidnapped or taken hostage for ransom, or murdered… Chaos threatens everyone, everywhere, at every moment.

Dangers loom over all citizens, especially civilians, due to the destabilisation and chaos of residential districts in many areas (Homs and environs, Aleppo, the Damascus suburbs, my native town of Daraya), caused by the exploitation, particularly of Christians, but also of various religious groups.   
    
There is also the danger for individuals, houses, churches and mosques of being taken as shields … and the danger of religious riots being engineered, especially between Christians, Muslims and Druze.
       
These dangers threaten all citizens, but especially Christians, who are the weakest and most fragile link.

In the face of all these dangers, sufferings and misfortunes that afflict all citizens, we wonder whether there can be any other way of speaking or acting than that of war, weapons, violence, hatred and revenge.  
      
We very much need a solution.  Some months ago, in August 2012, we made our appeal, “For Syria, reconciliation is the only lifeline.”  We shall not stop calling for love, dialogue, harmony and peace.
     
We are sure that, despite our woes, all we Syrians – government, political parties, Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, Alawites, Christians and Druze –are capable of engaging in dialogue, and rebuilding an atmosphere conducive to reconciliation, in order to go forward together.
       
As Patriarch, I am called, as are all of us Christians, to play this role: that is why we are turning to you.

Perhaps it may be useful to set out for you the particular situation of us Christians.        

Damascus is the headquarters of our Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate and also that of the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Patriarchates of Antioch. Syria has about one and a half to two million Christians of all denominations. Apart from Egypt, it is the Arab country that has the largest number of Christians, even more than Lebanon.
            
The future of Christians in the Middle East is closely bound up with that of Syria’s Christians. Many Christians from Lebanon fled to Syria between 1975 and 1992 and again in 2006. Similarly, the majority of Iraq’s Christians fled to Syria, where many still are.     
   
The future of Christians in Syria is threatened, not by Muslims, but by the current crisis, because of the chaos it causes and the infiltration of uncontrollable, fanatical, fundamentalist Islamist groups; they may be provoking attacks against Christians.    
 
The threat of the worst is perhaps more serious for Muslims than Christians due to the age-old, bloody, interdenominational and sectarian conflicts within Islam.    
   
The situation of Christians is already painful to discover: over a thousand dead (military and civilian, priests, men, women and children) and hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons, internally within Syria, and in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Turkey. A fairly large number of others, (though we don’t have precise figures), have fled to Europe (especially Sweden), Canada and the United States: all together, around 250,000 to 400,000 persons.

Material losses are very serious. We do not have all the statistics yet, but we do know that some twenty churches have been damaged or partially destroyed, and a similar number of social institutions (schools, orphanages, old people’s homes), which had always been there to serve all Christian and Muslim citizens; not to mention the loss of the workplaces (factories, shops and offices) and homes of our faithful, who have had to leave their cities, villages and neighbourhoods in haste, only being able to salvage little if anything. By and large, their houses and possessions have been looted, destroyed or damaged. All this represents a total loss of several million dollars.   

Entire villages have been cleared of all their Christian inhabitants (as has my native town of Daraya.)

Our Muslim fellow-citizens are in an analogous situation, but with even more serious losses, due to the fact that there are more of them than of our faithful.

But worst of all for everyone is the chaos!  
     
On Easter Day, Pope Francis made an appeal “for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort.  How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be, before a political solution to the crisis will be found?”   
   
We pray for everyone to heed Pope Francis’ appeal!

We are praying for all you Sovereigns, Presidents, Heads of State and government of countries throughout the world.    

May you, dear friends, hear Christ’s voice: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” We pray for you to be worthy of this beatitude by being peacemakers.   
    
+ Gregorios III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
of Alexandria and of Jerusalem


Teachings of Christ

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:16-18 ESV)

Theophany

When You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, * worship of the Trinity was revealed, * for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His “beloved Son”, * and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of these words. * O Christ God, * Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You! (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.

You have appeared to the whole world today, * and Your light, O Lord, is signed upon us, * who with knowledge praise You in song: * "You have come, and You have appeared, O Unapproachable Light." (Kontakion, Tone 4)

Theophany is a Greek word meaning "manifestation or appearence of God".

Random Proverb

"One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want." (Proverbs 11:24 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Even a pious person is not immune to spiritual sickness if he does not have a wise guide -- either a living person or a spiritual writer. This sickness is called _prelest_, or spiritual delusion, imagining oneself to be near to God and to the realm of the divine and supernatural. Even zealous ascetics in monasteries are sometimes subject to this delusion, but of course, laymen who are zealous in external struggles (podvigi) undergo it much more frequently. Surpassing their acquaintances in struggles of prayer and fasting, they imagine that they are seers of divine visions, or at least of dreams inspired by grace. In every event of their lives, they see special intentional directions from God or their guardian angel. And then they start imagining that they are God's elect, and often try to foretell the future. The Holy Fathers armed themselves against nothing so fiercely as against this sickness -- prelest.

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky