Cordial greetings with my love, blessing and prayers!
Dear young people,
I am sending you affectionate, hearty greetings by way of this brotherly and fatherly letter addressed to you, which is rather a conversation with you, as I am in daily conversation with you in prayers, meditations, thoughts, trips and travels here and there, and in conferences, talks and meetings the world over, both at home and abroad.
When I talk to youth groups in our parishes I often repeat my slogan:
A Church without young people is a Church without a future.
Young people without a Church are young people without a future.
Now I add:
A homeland without young people is a homeland without a future.
Young people without a homeland are young people without a future.
The almost communal wave of youth emigration, especially in Syria (but also in Lebanon and Iraq) breaks my heart, wounding me deeply and dealing me a deadly blow. Given this tsunami of emigration, the above-quoted motto becomes meaningless. What future is left for the Church? What will become of our homeland? What will become of our parishes and institutions?
Of course, I understand the many reasons that incite you young people to emigrate. Despite all that, I implore you to remain, arming yourselves with resolution, patience, endurance, strength and good courage.
Our fathers and mothers suffered much. Many died in the frequent turmoil in our countries, especially Syria. We all know about the revolution of 1860, when thousands of Christians were killed, and the churches of Damascus Old City were burnt down, from Bab Tuma to Bab Sharki. Our Cathedral of the Dormition, which had been built in 1835 by Patriarch Maximos III (Mazlum), was destroyed. My predecessor Patriarch Gregorios II (Sayyur) had it rebuilt and enlarged in 1865, and we have just celebrated the 150th anniversary of its reconstruction. Then, in 1860 there was just the cathedral, but now we have nine churches in Damascus.
My dear young people,
Our forebears underwent great difficulties, but they exercised patience and so the Church remained, Christianity remained and the number of Christians even grew after 1860.
That is why I say again, despite all your suffering, stay! Be patient! Don’t emigrate! Stay for the Church, your homeland, for Syria and its future! Stay! Do stay!
I conclude this brotherly and fatherly letter by reminding you again of my love and esteem.
You are the future of the Church and your country. I shall go on praying for you every day, for Jesus, the Saviour to keep you and give you the grace of patience in the current, tragic circumstances.
Be sure that the Church, with all its capabilities, is accompanying you. Our Lord Jesus, friend of young people, speaks to you, telling you, as he often did his disciples according to the Gospel, “Be not afraid. I am with you always, even unto the end of the age. Ye will be my witnesses.”
My dear young people, I love you,
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem