Appeal of His Beatitude Patriarch Gregorios III (Laham)
For Prayer and Forgiveness
For the victims of violence and fanaticism in Iraq:
Christians and Muslims together for the rejection of violence and fanaticism
Rabweh March 10, 2010
Violence, fanaticism, terrorism, enmity, dislocation, or rather persecution, continue incessantly to decimate our beloved brothers, the few Christians especially, in that dear country Iraq, which has descended into chaos, rout, licentiousness, tribalism, laxity, massacre, destruction and terrorism in all its ugliness.
This is the confirmed state of affairs borne out by the following facts:
- From 2003 to 2010, about two thousand Christians have been killed in different districts, following successive waves of violence.
- Between 17 February and 1 March, eight hundred and seventy Christian families, numbering some four thousand four hundred persons, have left Mosul because of confessional violence.
- During the month of October 2008, twelve thousand Christians left Mosul, fleeing violence.
- Forty per cent of Iraqi refugees are Christian. In all, there are one million six hundred thousand Iraqi refugees.
- Forty-four per cent of Iraqi refugees in Syria are Christian. Our Churches in Syria receive them and offer them help as best they can.
- The number of Christians is declining and diminishing in a tragic way. In 1987, they numbered one million four hundred thousand: in 2003, they were fewer than one million two hundred thousand. Now, in 2009, they are just six hundred thousand, representing three per cent of the twenty-seven and a half million total population of Iraq.
The drop in the numbers of Iraqi Christians, their expulsion and massacre is a tragedy for Iraq’s Christians and Muslims alike.
That is why we are making an appeal to foreign governments and to that great spiritual leader, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, to make every effort to speak up in defense of Christians and of all victims of violence. We call upon all Iraq’s sons, especially Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, who make up the majority of the population and appeal to their noble – for so it is! – Iraqi nature, beseeching and imploring them to protect Christians. He who murders a Christian is no Muslim, but a renegade to his Islamic faith.
We call everyone to solidarity, harmony and national unity in lovely Iraq. Christians are an integral part of that national unity and of the rich, pluralist Iraqi social fabric. We call upon them: all you Christians and Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, you are equally responsible for the unity of your country. We entreat them: let us Muslims and Christians stay together and God be with us. He wants us to stay together, as we have always done throughout history, with our common culture, heritage, faith and values. For our future and the future of the faith values of our Muslim and Christian Iraqi citizens are one and the same, and there is a single, common future for all Iraq’s children.
Let us not forget those specialists in terrorism who love to create schemes and disturbances and are the enemies of Christianity and Islam alike: they are the ones behind most of the attacks and acts of terror in more than one Arab country.
In conclusion, we invite all our sons and daughters, the faithful of our Melkite Greek Catholic Church, pastors, priests, monastics, deputies, ministers, members of institutes and confraternities from all walks of public life, to take part in great numbers in the Day of Solidarity with Iraq’s Christians on March 13 2010, at Our Lady of Rihan in Harissa. There we shall pray together to our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, imploring the intercession of our Holy Mother, the Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary, for security, peace, compassion, solidarity and stability for all our brothers and sisters of Iraq.
On that day, I shall be on a brotherly visit to India, staying with our dear brother St. Thomas Christians in Kerala.
We shall be meeting in great numbers for prayer, forgiveness and peace in Harissa.
And may the God of Peace fill us to the brim with his Peace, his security and his Love.
+ Gregorios III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East,
Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
Translation from the French: V. Chamberlain