At the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth year
Of the Syrian Crisis or War on Syria
- As an Arab, I cannot help thinking in a joint Islamic and Christian way. With this in mind, these reflections are my spiritual meditations, for our Arab heads of State and national leaders to tackle evil and corruption in the twenty-first century in the face of the tragedies caused by human godlessness.
- Arab unity is the strongest shield of Arabs and Muslims. Division is the greatest enemy of Arabs and Muslims.
- Arab unity is the real answer to jihadist groups and takfiri ideas and terrorism.
- Arab unity is the main guarantee of coexistence and democracy, human rights and the secular State, and harmony between religion and the State in the Islamic world.
- Arab unity is the only sure guarantee for a continuing Christian role and Christian presence.
- Arab unity will ensure future prosperity and security for rising generations of our Arab youth.
- Arab unity is the guarantee for combating poverty, ignorance and illiteracy, and preserving personal dignity and enshrining respect for human rights and the rights of God.
- Arab unity is vigilant to conserve and protect Arab countries from the contest between the superpowers, which are squabbling over us for their interests and policies and ambitions of global domination, to control the world’s destiny.
- And let everyone in the East and West be assured: our country’s conditions are quite removed from the idea of religious conflict, nor is ISIS even remotely related to religion (in my opinion), but should be seen more as senseless and brutal than religious. In fact, to stigmatise Islam in this way is outrageous, hypocritical and false. The Shi’a-Sunni conflict, which seems rather a major element of conflict in Syria, has also become an instrument and pretext for these proxy wars in our region and at the expense of all citizens.
- This is what the Holy Father Francis spoke of in his Message for the World Day of Peace, cited in my Lent Letter, where His Holiness warns that humans have become victims of trafficking.
- “Today, as in the past, slavery is rooted in a notion of the human person which allows him or her to be treated as an object. Whenever sin corrupts the human heart and distances us from our Creator and our neighbours, the latter are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects. Whether by coercion or deception, or by physical or psychological duress, human persons created in the image and likeness of God are deprived of their freedom, sold and reduced to being the property of others. They are treated as means to an end.
- Another cause of slavery is corruption on the part of people willing to do anything for financial gain. Slave labour and human trafficking often require the complicity of intermediaries, be they law enforcement personnel, state officials, or civil and military institutions.[note Message of Pope Francis for the World Day of Peace 1 January 2015 (Para. 4)]
- And so I can say with great regret that religion has become a victim of trafficking and a human commodity!
- And the Sunni-Shi’a inter-denominational conflict has become a victim of trafficking…
- And the killing of innocent people has become a commodity
- And the abduction and killing of Christians has become a commodity
- And the Syrian crisis and the global war on Syria are for sale!
- The beneficiaries of this tragedy, the tragedy of our world and our communities, are numerous and there are global, regional and local players in our own ranks engaging in war on human beings. The war is on all of us!
If a man kills another, he defaces the divine likeness. As an Austrian intellectual wrote, “From his divinity, he lost his humanity.”
Even the murder and displacement of Christians from their villages, their property and their holy places is also trafficking for unspecified purposes!
The killing of children and the children of Christians is also a good pretext for other reasons. War on Syria is also a commodity, which everyone has bought! Every citizen one way or the other has tried to derive as much benefit as possible from it! We wonder: has ISIS ideology penetrated every human today? Such examples remind us of certain events in the Lebanese Civil War…
- The fighting in Beirut was unduly prolonged for weeks to enable film companies to produce films showing sex with children! Infants were trafficked! Sex was for sale! Such was the evil of war!
- There was an artificially instigated battle in the city centre where many buildings had glass façades…which benefited the glaziers! Everything was up for sale.
- Fighting erupted prior to the heist from Intra Bank in Beirut. Burglars wanted to crack the steel vault, where gold and other valuables were deposited, but the thieves could not break into the safe. The battle was prolonged and the gang of thieves even flew to London and bought special equipment, before returning to break open the safe and steal its contents. Then the battle stopped!
So everything becomes a commodity. And the cheapest is human. Thus it is in the Middle East!
In Syria there are many groups here and there, at home and abroad…They prolong the war and chaos and instability for their own enrichment …and so all of us in Syria become items to be trafficked. Everyone is involved in exploitation and causes distress by deciding to engage in wars…
I should like to add something to the above thoughts, which I wrote in Rome. I had the grace to celebrate with Pope Francis in the morning mass on Tuesday, 17 February, 2015 and recorded some thoughts by His Holiness in his usual morning homily, about the day’s readings from the Old and New Testaments. (As noted during this liturgy.)
- We, like Cain, kill our brother. When we kill people, we kill our brethren and we kill the brotherhood of man. This is the root of all war everywhere.
- News of war and death and destruction fills the news media, to the exclusion of all else.
- Evil does not come from without, but from within! All evil proceeds from the heart. I noted in my notebook: evil does not come from outside. We are afraid of ISIS from abroad and forget the evil inherent in human hearts. That is the root of ISIS and the like.
- His Holiness reminded us of the example in the Gospel of Christ warning his disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees, the leaven of evil! Indeed (my comment) that evil brews in people’s hearts and souls, before erupting in murderous destruction and war.
- Man can rapaciously destroy what God created in love. Yet God, for his part, cannot destroy, because he does not abhor anything that he has created. He came to gather together in one those who were scattered abroad and to save those who were lost.
- Yet man too can build! We thank God for grace and salvation. Let us choose to build, to reconstruct and choose goodness, gentleness, and the civilization of love and peace! This path leads to sanctity! (Thanks to His Holiness.)
At the end, after the mass presided over by His Holiness, I presented to His Holiness a large candle, marked with a cross and on the cross a map of Syria, and written on the candle in gilded letters, “The flame of hope and peace for Syria.” And I thanked him for his concern for Syria and his prayer for peace in the Middle East. It should be noted that the idea for this candle came as a response to the Pope’s call, saying, “Never let the flame of hope be extinguished in your hearts.” So this candle initiative was launched. Thousands of candles were distributed in parishes with the phrase, “The flame of hope and peace for Syria.” And the faithful were asked to light a candle every Sunday evening and meditate on verses from the Gospel, and pray together at home for peace in Syria and the region.
So in the words of Prophet Isaiah, we pray to Jesus as Prince and King of Peace, saying, “O God, grant us thy peace, for thou hast given us everything.”
With my love and blessing,
Melkite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East,
Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem