(20 September 2014) - Certain thoughts spring to mind in view of the joint readiness of many, particularly European, countries to fight Islamic State and variously named takfiri groups: -      

1.    Why are some countries, especially those of the region where there has been bloodshed because of the crimes of Islamic State and other similar groups, apparently excluded from the anti-Islamic State coalition?
2.    Why are not all Arab countries joining this coalition?
3.    Furthermore, why wouldn’t Arab countries be first to unite solidly to form an effective frontline coalition to fight these takfiri groups?
4.    We believe that a united Arab stance would be most effective in achieving that objective.

5.    A united and coherent coalition would be a landmark in history, especially for Arab countries, providing very clear and solid evidence for the predominantly Muslim Arab countries being really entirely and unambiguously against those various takfiri movements.
6.    A united and cohesive Arab coalition would be like a badge of honour for the monarchs and presidents of Arab countries and a wonderful moral example for young people who are expecting such a stance.
7.    In that way all Arab countries with their nations and armed forces united in purposeful solidarity, would rise up to eliminate these takfiri parties and tendencies.
8.    This stance of Arab countries would be the setting for the genuine, real, moral, social, cultural victory of faith over these currents, because such an attitude is more powerful than weapons.
9.    We turn to the muftis of Arab countries, patriarchs and other leaders of Christian Churches to join their voices to this united and consistent stance.
10.    Such a united Arab stance would reassure the region’s Christian and other faith communities about their future and constitute clear and firm evidence that living together, based on citizenship and respect for others and their religion is possible, and that Arab countries are resolved to establish secular states and create developed Arab institutions founded on human rights, including especially freedom of worship, religion and conscience, and citizenship with equality of rights and duties for all.  
11.    So the Arab world, with its Muslim and Christian civil and religious leaders, would provide an exemplary model for moral values for the whole world, resulting in the international community’s joining in this united Arab stance to achieve this objective.    
12.     We call upon our churches to raise prayers for this intention. From 22 September until 22 October we shall be holding a series of services in all Damascus’s churches in turn, with a service at 6p.m. every day in a church of a different denomination.  The first service will take place in the Melkite Greek Catholic patriarchal cathedral on 22 September at 6 p.m.     
 
We pray, “God, grant us thy peace, for thou hast given us everything!” and repeat the angelic Christmas hymn, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill towards men!

+ Gregorios III
               Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem


Teachings of Christ

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44 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

"Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold." (Proverbs 3:13,14 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God's mercy and His love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy that we shall be saved. 

St. John Chrysostom