Melkite Patriarch speaks out on Syrian protests.
By way of this post by The Western Confucian, here is a newly-published interview with Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, the Damascus-based leader of the Melkite Greek-Catholic Church. Speaking with Bernardo Cervellera of AsiaNews, the Melkite Patriarch offers a thoughtful perspective on the current crisis in Syria and what it could mean for the country's Christians. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Your Beatitude, as a Christian how do you view the situation in Syria?To read the rest, click here. As I wrote on Tuesday, my major worry about the Syrian protests is with the effect that instability (or even 'regime change') could have upon the country's Christian community, one of the largest, most secure, and most vibrant in the Middle East. Like the Patriarch, I hope and pray that the current crisis may be resolved in a way that will not endanger the future well-being of Christians in Syria but will allow them to remain in their ancient homeland. AMDG.
The movements and revolts that are shaking Syria worry the Churches and Christians. Not so much for the present, but for the future, for what to expect. In the past, every revolt in the Middle East was followed by a large wave of Christian emigration to Europe, America or Australia. I fear that even now the same will happen, further emptying an already dwindling Christian community.
Some Muslim scholars also are concerned about a possible depletion of Christians in Syria and are demanding [that] their presence be defended and safeguarded.
Are there problems for the Christian communities?
So far, the riots have not been of a sectarian nature, they are not a Christian-Muslim conflict. Indeed, during demonstrations in Homs, Aleppo and Damascus, young Muslims have offered to protect churches, providing security cordons around the buildings to prevent criminal acts.
In solidarity with those killed in clashes in recent weeks, Christians have celebrated the rites of Holy Week and Easter in a very sober manner, no processions, music or festivities, to correctly participate in the mourning of the population.
At the same time we are trying to play the role of mediators in conflicts that have emerged in Syrian society, so that tensions do not grow until the inevitable. I have personally sent letters to 15 European countries, the United States, and the Americas asking their governments to help improve the situation without [making] any "revolution" violent.
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How would you explain the West’s exaltation of the Syrian protests and its harsh accusations of violations of human rights?
There are political problems and pressures to shake up the balance of power in the Middle East: the [Syrian] alliance with Iran, Israel’s concern... In all things that happen in the Middle East, there is always a link with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, war, emigration ... we have been in this situation for over 62 years. For this I sent the letter to European and American governments and I invited them to put pressure on their governments to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian problem as a priority: only in this way will there be less migration, less terrorism, less fundamentalism, less violence.
This is my mission and it is what I also emphasized in the Synod of Bishops last October and the pope appreciated it. Peace is also important for the future of Muslim-Christian dialogue in Syria and the world. If the crisis continues to force Christians to migrate, the Arab world will become exclusively Muslim, increasing the likelihood of a cultural conflict between the Arab-Islamic world and Western-Christian world.
The presence of Christians in the Middle East saves the Arab Middle East by not reducing it to pure Islam. If Syria is helped to overcome this situation of chaos to one of stability guaranteed by dialogue with the population, the future will be better for everyone.