Patriarch’s Appeal for Peace
To the whole world and to President George Bush 5/02
Appeal by His Beatitude Gregory III, (Melkite Greek Catholic) Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem.
Prot. # 65 /2000/D Damascus, April 3, 2002
As Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in the Near East and in the whole world, carrying the title of Jerusalem, having lived 26 years in Jerusalem, I feel my imperative duty duty to address this urgent Appeal to the whole world, especially to the heads of government, and also to the religious leaders, Christian, Moslem, Jewish and all believers from the various countries, in order to save peace in the Holy Land.
What is at stake today is more than the Aqka Mosque in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem. It is rather the sacred being, which is man created in the image of God.
This war is a war against Man, who is the true holy place.
The Holy Land cannot be the theater of this murderous war, which is contrary to all human values.
Save the Holy Land! Save the Holiness of the Land! Save the holiness of the man on the earth!
This fierce war will have a consequence a new wave of emigration, especially among Christians. It will create a very serious social and religious disequilibrium in the Holy Land.
All this is very harmful to good neighborhood living, to the dialogue among religions and cultures for the future of the Holy Land.
S.O.S. Save the peace of the world by saving the peace in the Holy Land!
It is time to bring God into the action, the action to save the Man (Christian, Moslem or Jew) who is His image, to save the land, the Holy Land, holy for all its inhabitants, who are all God’s children.
+ Gregory III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem
His Excellency George Walker Bush, President of the United States of America, The White House, Washington, D.C. U.S.A
We want to send you our best Easter greetings and wishes of every good and prosperity, for yourself and the American people.
But, in the very midst of our Easter celebration, we are in the deepest sorrow and suffering because of the dramatic situation of our people in the Holy Land and of all the Palestinians, as all people in the Holy Land are living in fear and insecurity.
As you may know, when I was patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem for 26 years (until my election as Patriarch in 2000), I have always been working for peace and, as an Arab Christian Bishop, I was clearly standing beside the Palestinian rights. With the Patriarchs and other Heads of Christian Churches in the Holy Land, we produced a number of documents in this regard since 1996, and we always affirmed, on the other side, the necessity for Israel to live in peace and security.
But the way how Israel, with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his government, are treating the Palestinians and the fierce attacks with all kinds of weapons on the cities, villages, refugee camps and hospitals, as well as the isolation and practical imprisonment of President Yasser Arafat and the cold-blood execution of Palestinians after their arrest, even in hospitals, and other atrocities, are things which are causing a world wide utter uneasiness; even some Jews are qualifying these acts as war crimes.
In my capacity as Patriarch of the Melkite-Greek Catholic Church in the whole Middle East, I bear the title of Patriarch of Jerusalem, and this is why that Holy City is my very special concern.
Therefore, I am writing this letter to Your Excellency. You do know how big are our hopes in yourself, your country and your government. So, it is very difficult for us to understand you position; we were expecting more understanding, from you, for the suffering of the Palestinian people, supported for more than half a century: they loose everything!
The position of the recent Arab Summit in Beirut was aimed to support the peace process in a very strong way, as well as the recognition of Israel as a State in the Arab world. It was nearly a golden chance for Israel, and we were waiting for a more positive reaction on the Israel Side, and a greater support to such an initiative (which is absolutely concordant with the international legitimacy and the United Nations Security Council resolution) from your side.
We think it is very necessary to encourage President Arafat and the Palestinian people to head the way of peace; it is necessary to openly recognize and guarantee the right of a Palestinian State, side by side with State of Israel.
It is no way helpful to describe the Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation of their land as merely terror and violence. We would like to affirm that we are frankly against the terrorism. But you cannot describe the position of all the Palestinians as terrorism. We are also contrary to suicide actions against civilians, but we cannot speak with Palestinians only by using the words of violence and terrorism, which can just exasperate them and have a very negative effect on their mentality, when they are suffering so many vexations under the occupation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government.
The situation is very delicate indeed. We trust, Mr. President, in your wisdom, discretion and political skill so that you may take a more comprehensive and balanced position, so that America may really work to fight all kinds of terrorism and violence from both sides (because there is also Israeli terrorism!), and you may positively participate in establishing a lasting and juts peace in the whole Arab world.
Not to forget that such a critical and tragic situation is one of main factors of renewed waves of emigration, causing a real hemorrhage of the Christian presence in the Holy Land, so that the Holy Places well soon become mere museums. Such a presence is a part of your responsibility as a Christian President of the United States of America.
I am writing to you very frankly, but I want to assure you that, with this letter, we are conveying our prayers so that you may bear your heavy responsibility with the help of the Lord.
With renewed regards, greetings, prayers and blessings.
Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, of Alexandria and Jerusalem