Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fr. Georges Massouh on the Orthodox and Sectarian Politics

The Arabic original can be found here.

Orthodox Frustration and the Worries of the World

As coming from the highest authority in the Church of Antioch, the letter addressed by the Holy Synod of Antioch to "our children" the Orthodox at the beginning of the Lebanese Civil War constitutes a kind of synodal guidance. This letter, published on August 24, 1975, calls to memory the shared history that binds Orthodox to all their fellow citizens from all religious groups and casts a vision of what their role can be in the future. The letter calls for a struggle to eliminate sectarianism and for allocating jobs on the basis of competency and not on the basis of sectarian affiliation.

In the midst of the sectarian wars that were raging at the time, the letter itself confirms the importance of a common life shared by Muslims and Christians and rejects "any Christian [...] or Christian essence for Lebanon". For this reason it praises the Orthodox who "refuse to establish Orthodox sectarian organizations or for there to be an Orthodox political party." The letter likewise praises the consciousness of the Orthodox who "carry along with other fellow citizens the torch of national (Arab) liberation since last century (the 19th century)." It does not ignore commitment to the issues of Palestine and Jerusalem and "unconditional loyalty to Lebanon." Within this context, Metropolitan Georges Khodr, one of the drafters of the synodal letter, affirms these bold positions and refuses for the Christians to be a single bloc against the Muslims "because the Christians," in his words, "are the bloc of love and not the bloc of sectarianism" and that "your presence is not in opposition to the Muslims but rather with the Muslims." He himself says in another place, "There is no Arab Christian who grows more profound in knowledge of Christ or whose contribution to the politics of his country is strengthened merely because Christians-- or a group of them-- assume the reins of governance in Lebanon."

It appears that these anti-sectarian positions of the Orthodox Church have become disagreeable for a group of politicians or for a group of politically-interested Orthodox. These people ignore the failure of all sectarian solutions or of all solutions based on sectarian allotment from before the establishment of the modern Lebanon up to our own day. Without any doubt, these solutions only lead to frustrations being transferred from one sectarian community to another and to threats of coming wars. Has the level of frustration for the Orthodox reached the point of denying their presence and witness in Lebanon?

Have the Orthodox, or those among them who join sectarian gatherings, done away with their uniqueness for the sake of sectarian realignment and become advocates of sectarian cantons or advocates for a sectarian-based federalism, without a specific geography? Is the call for each sect to elect its representatives not a sort of return to discordant cantons, so inimical to the idea of a universal nation? In this call is there not a rejection of the position of Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim who rejects "the principle of cantons"? Does this call not deny what Metropolitan Georges Khodr went so far as to say, that "the Christian's struggle is to not remain a Christian neighborhood in the Islamic world but instead for all to become citizens in nations, equal in honor such that no one has any advantage over another in existence and freedom"?

The proposal of some Orthodox and those fundamentalists of the idea of intense sectarianism is a proposal that contradicts the most important basis of citizenship and contradicts the deeply-rooted thought of the Church. Patriarch Hazim says, "the basic task of the Orthodox is to be the bridge of harmony." So why do some of them try to blow up this bridge?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Christ is in our midst!
it seems that the Arabic original is removed after the publication of the Annahar. perhaps copying and pasting it will be a better solution in order to keep it atatched to the translation. be mindful though of copyright etc.....
God bless you for the hard task of these translations. as we all know, that sayedna's arabic is very deep.
Fr. Jean El-Murr