Thursday, October 6, 2011

Patriarch Ignatius IV Meets with Representatives from Hezbollah

From today's (tomorrow's) an-Nahar. Arabic original here. (Some of the quotes from His Beatitude were terse to the point that I may not have followed them correctly. If anyone wants to suggest better alternate translations, I'm all ears.)

Hazim Recieves a Delegation from Hezbollah:
We Are Firmly Rooted in the Region and Without Fear We Live a Common Life

Tripoli- An-Nahar
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim received a delegation from Hezbollah that included members of the party's political council, Sheikh Muhammad Saleh and Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, at the patriarchal residence at Balamand yesterday. After the meeting, Ignatius said, "This meeting does not happen every day and I believe that the divine presence that all hear is the truth that we live. We are all partners in accomplishing things for the glory of God and it is necessary to look at the state of humans who represent God's will." In response to a question about events in the region and fear for the Christians, he said "I refuse for there to be fear for the Christians. We exist in Lebanon and Syria and we have no fear for the Christians. We only have fear when forces work for our destruction. We are firmly-rooted in the region and we are not at all strangers to each other. We live a common life with all. Our presence does not represent a fiction. We all live with each other and without this we all depart." He added, "We live in Syria and it is our country. We shall remain there and we are not concerned by other things which are designed to have other roles."

Abu Zeinab described the meeting as "a good opportunity that allowed for meeting with Patriarch Hazim, in which there was much love." He said, "The meeting treated the totality of common national issues and there was complete agreement between us and His Beatitude on everything that was mentioned, since His Beatitude has an insightful view of everything that is occurring and he is at ease, reflecting our being at ease." With regard to general conditions in the region, he said, "There are interests at play in the region and it is only when we are united with one heart and one hand and we discern those who wish us evil that we are able to confront them without being effected by the course of events."

And from the English-language Daily Star, here.

No Fear for Christians in Lebanon, Syria: Hazim

by Antoine Amrieh

IVKOURA, Lebanon: Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim said Wednesday that there is no fear for Christians living in Lebanon and Syria but only of forces “working to destroy us.”

Following a meeting with a Hezbollah delegation at the patriarchate in Balamand, Hazim said “I refuse that there be fear for Christians.

We are present in Lebanon and Syria, and we have no fear for Christians; we only fear when there are forces working on destroying us.”

Hazim added that Christians will remain in Syria and will coexist with everyone as they are no strangers to the region.

Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, a member of Hezbollah’s political bureau, described the meeting as a good opportunity to discuss national issues.


NOCTOC said...

Very interesting!!
Thank you so much for the hard labour you put in translating all these for us. And yes, it's hard translating from one language to another especially from Arabic which is a Semetic language into English which is an Indo-European language, and therefore not related to each other. This makes translation even harder.
It's interesting to note that during the Lebanese civil war, the Orthodox Christians of Lebanon sided with the Muslims enstead with the Maronites. Now, we see the Maronite leader Michel Aoun siding with the Hezbollah.
All these unassuming alliances seem really strange to most of us who have no understanding of Lebanese politics.However, one thing is very clear- the Hezbollah are the major power in Lebanon right now with far reaching influences in the region and especially Syria where they find support by the majority of the Syrian people and the Syrian government due to Hezbollah's aggressive stand towards Israel.
It's understanable that the Hezbollah will play a major role as to whether the Christans will continue to exist in Syria and Lebanon in the future. I guess this is a major reason why Michel Aoun sided with them in the first place.
In my view, Patriarch Ignatius Hazim knows the power of the Hezbollah and like Michel Aoun before him, he is trying to keep good terms with them for the sake of the Christans.
The problem here is that the Christians in Lebanon themselves are not united in any way. They are actually divided. Some support the Sunnis and some support the Shiah and the Hezbollah. In both cases they are followers of events concerning their existance and not masters of their future. It's a price they had to pay after the Civil War was over.
Among all this confusion and division,I don't know where the Orthodox Christians in Lebanon stand. From what I know, they are in no way united and they have no political leadership to represent their self-interest as a religious minority.
Did they mend their differences with the Maronites? I don't think so. Patriarch Ignatius Hazim is a strong supporter of Pan-Arabism as oppossed to the Maronites who want to have nathing to do with the Arabs.
Also knowing the Lebanese (whether they are Maronites, Orthodox or Muslim)and their strong feeling of superiority over all Arabs and especially the Syrians, I know for a fact that many Orthodox Lebanese are not happy to have a Syrian national(eg.Patriarch Ignatius) as their religious leader.
This is something which is never talked about publicly, but its an issue which does exist, and therefore it causes another division among the Syrian Orthodox and the Lebanese Orthodox due to national affiliation(Lebanese)and not religious(Orthodox)affiliation.
I am sure that Patriarch Ignatius and Pan-Arabism will never stop the Lebanese Orthodox from feeling superior to Arabs even though these Arabs are Orthodox like them.
Things are very complicated and most of these complications are unknown to outsiders. Divisions run deep and the functions of conflict are many. This outcome leaves the Lebanese of all religious groups weak and accessible to outside forces. I guess these are the forces which Patriarch Ignatius states that are “working to destroy us.”
The man knows that he is in a very difficult possition. May God help him do the best he can for his religious community in Syria and Lebanon.

Samn! said...


Orthodox politics in Lebanon are complicated because there has never been a specifically Orthodox political party or even an Orthodox politician who plausibly could claim to speak for the entire community. This picture is complicated further by the fact that the Orthodox community is the only non-Sunni community that is more or less evenly distributed historically across Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine, so there has always been a resistance, especially on the part of the Church leadership, to focus on narrow national concerns. This is one of the reasons for the tendency for the Orthodox historically to favor pan-Arab or pan-Syrian political movements. I think you are right, though, that especially post-civil war, there has been a growing Lebanese national identity among many Lebanese Orthodox-- and, you can see in the frequent political statements of Met. Elias (Audi) of Beirut the voice of such sentiments. But then, it's often said that he acts more like a Maronite bishop than an Orthodox....

The lack of a sectarian political movement among the Orthodox, combined with the historical role of individual Orthodox in the leadership of the main secularist parties (the Syrian Socialist Nationalist and Communist most notably, but also to a lesser degree the Baath), also contributed to the Orthodox self-perception as "the non-sectarian sect". This secularist political tendency, combined with the influence of the Youth Movement in decades past, led to the Church itself being a relatively more interested in spiritual than political concerns-- at least when compared to other Middle Eastern churches...

That said, the current proposal to have each sect elect its own political representation in Lebanon would radically alter Orthodox politics there, and almost necessarily create a sectarian political identity and discourse among the Orthodox, which is why this proposal is creating so much controversy and self-examination.

All that said, new political realities always require new adaptations. The consequences of this particular adaptation in particular could be disastrous. What's more, if in the next few years there is a patriarchal election under conditions of political chaos in Syria, things could get very bad...

NOCTOC said...

Dear Samn,

Your replies are so thorough and well rounded. I admire you for not being affaid to speak your mind and express yourself so clearly. I always learn so much from you.

I agree with what you write to a great extend, but, as I am sure you know, Orthodoxy and politics go hand in hand because historically, under the Millet System, Orthodox Church leaders have also been the leaders of their religious communities. Therefore, our Church leaders have been accustomed up to the present day to deal with politics and other worldly matters (like business ventures) to a much more great extend than with spiritual matters.

As nice as the different sermons sound they are never actually been put into practice and they usually only say half thruths.

The real reason behind the fact that there are no established Orthodox sectarian organizations in Lebanon is not because of the anti-sectarian positions of the Orthodox Church, but because there is no unity among the Lebanese Orthodox meanly due to the political stands of the Antiochian Church (like Arabism) which divide instead of uniting the Lebanese Orthodoxy.

I always like to speak the truth (not something very common in Arab countries) and I will inform you (if you don't already know it) that for many Lebanese Orthodox, the Patriarch of Antioch is looking after the self-interests of Syria and the Syrians and not of the Lebanese. For this reason there is a growing discourse among the Lebanese Orthodox and the Church of Antioch in Damascus. I am also sad to let you know that due to this estrangement, many Lebanese Orthodox choose to leave the Greek Orthodox Church and become Greek Catholics (Unites).

You have very correctly pointed out the great nationalism developed among the Lebanese after the Civil War, and this nationalism caries some very racist feelings of superiority among the Lebanese, especially young people. Syrians (and Arabs in general) are looked upon by the Lebanese the same way whites used to look at blacks.

The Pan-Arabism policy of the Antiochian Church might be working among the Orthodox in Syria, but is fast loosing ground among the Lebanese Orthodox who never fully accepted it in the first place.
The Antiochian Patriarch is increasingly looked upon (or looked down I should say) as a Syrian and an Arab and therefore he is below them. For this reason they don't want to have him as their Church leader.

This is harming the Orthodox Church in Lebanon and the more these issues are been put under the rug as if nothing is happening, the more members the Church will loose.

Perhaps its a good idea for some brave Church leader to make a sermon about nationalism and racism in Lebanon and how its effecting the Orthodox Church. However, I am afraid, that his beard will be shaved the next day and be excommunicated.

Samn! said...

Well, I think that there are permanent practical factors that will prevent the Lebanese Orthodox from ever having a common political consciousness. First of all, they are the only major Lebanese sect that is truly aware of its status as a minority everywhere it exists. And no other Lebanese group is so geographically scattered. So, basically outside of el-Koura, in every part of Lebanon the Orthodox have to adapt socially and politically to distinct realities and forge relationships with very different neighbors, though of course some of these relationships wind up being warmer than others. The social and political realities they face in Akkar, Tripoli, the Metn, the various neighborhoods of Beirut, and Marjayoun are quite distinct even before we include Lattakia, Aleppo, Damascus, and the Palestinian camps. This is another reason that they have historically been attracted to political programs larger than their own sectarian identity-- it's only through participating in(and ideally leading) ideological movements wider than the sect that they've ever had a realistic chance for political influence. It's entirely possible that the new electoral proposal, which would necessarily require them to Maronitize politically, would result in Maronite-style internal divisiveness along family and regional lines in ways that we already sometimes witness in divisions within the Holy Synod. Of course, trying to continue to be the vanguard of secularism in a political environment where no one else is signing up for secularism might be nothing more than charmingly quixotic.

One could read the creation of the MJO, which is the closest thing the Orthodox managed to creating a sectarian movement when doing so was in fashion in the mid-20th century, was functionally an attempt to shape an Orthodox identity on a religious rather than socio-political basis. It's degree of success or failure in doing this aside, it has led to a persistent minority voice among some thoughtful Orthodox that religious belief is more important than sectarian identity. Within the wider Lebanese picture, such ideas are almost unheard of elsewhere. I'm working on translating a pretty difficult piece by Carol Saba that was published in an-Nahar a week or so ago that does a very good job of articulating the tension between being the Church and being a sect (= taifa).

As for voices opposing nationalism in the Lebanese Church, I would say Fr. Touma Bitar, Lebanon's voice crying out in the wilderness, has done so. For example, here: But yes, exceptions do make rules.

NOCTOC said...

Dear Samn,

I will be waiting to read your translation. I am sending you an article about the Orthodox in Lebanon which is directly related to what we have been discussing and I am sure you will find it very intersting. It is a voice not very often heard due to Pan-Arabism.

The Greek original is here:

October 3. 2008
A call for help by the Greeks in Lebanon
By Rodrigue (Dimitri) El Khoury

■ Orthodox Party (Lebanon)

The Lebanese society as we know, is a pluralistic society. There are Syrians, Arab Muslims and Greeks, known as Rum. It is true that they all now speak Arabic, after the Arab conquest, but these communities have maintained their identity.

The Greek Orthodox community in Lebanon, has many connections with our own people in Greece, since we have the same history,the same national heroes, the same faith, the Greek language in our liturgies, the same saints.In addition, many Greek saints are from Antioch. We reserve up until today a frank and sincere dedication to modern Greece. A testimony of our Greekness is the language of our religious ceremonies. Up until today we use Greek, alongside Arabic. We also know that many areas of Lebanon have Greek names.

NOCTOC said...

The Arab conquest succeeded to obligate our community to speak Arabic, but even today we retain the consciousness that we are Greeks who have been forced to become Arabized. The danger today is that the Arab propaganda has managed to convince some of the Orthodox of Antioch, that they originate from pre- Islamic Arab populations and that we should maintain this identity in the present and in the future. This propaganda is been made by political parties in the region, and from this our youth are been put into risk. Why? Due to the failure of the existance orthodox political parties.

Each community here have their own parties, the Maronites have the party of the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb, the FPM, the Marada, the Sunnis also have some partie (future Islamic organizations), the Shiites have Amal and the Hezbollah, the Armenians have Tashnak and Hanshak, the Druze the PSP, the Democratic Party and Attawhid. Only the Orthodox do not have parties. For this reason, our youth have been enclaved to all of these parties. Adopting at the same time the stand of these parties on our identity. There is no political party in Lebanon, saying to the Greek Orthodox youth that they are the successors of the Greek Antiochians, and that they are Greeks from the Hellenistic era. Most of these parties say we are Orthodox Syrians or Arabs.

What we are trying to do is to find a political party for the Greek Orthodox community, which aims to:

■ Go back to our true identity, the Greek identity.
■ Strengthening our presence in the Lebanese political scene.
■ Connecting the Greek Antiochian youth with our own people and brothers in Greece.
■ We need to teach the Greek language to our youth.

We should insist on Hellenism and Orthodoxy, to save our nation from Arab and Islamic assimilation. The problem is that some priests and bishops who were swept away by Arab propaganda, have become proponents of Arab nationalism and say to the Greek Orthodox Youth that they are Arabs, not Greeks. And some others who have been affected by the propaganda of the Maronites, say to our youth that they are Syrian and not Greek.

Our community in Lebanon is as follows:

■ constitutes about 7% of the total population.
■ is the second largest Christian church, and the fourth largest religion in Lebanon.
■ Our effectiveness in the political field is lacking.
Our community, like most Lebanese communities is living in poor economic conditions. So our orthodox youth have been absorbed in non-Orthodox parties in order to recieve money from them.

The Lebanese political reality is sectarian. Every religious community has some power. The president is a Maronite, the prime minister is a Sunni, and the chairman of parliament is given to the Shiites. The Greek Orthodox have the deputy prime minister and the vice-president of parliament, but do not have any significant power under the Constitution. The Electoral Act calculates several communities of Lebanon, but does not calculate the Orthodox. Why? Because we do not have an organized political body to speak on behalf of our community, as with other communities.

I am communicating with you on behalf of the Greek Orthodox community of the areas belonging to the Patriarchate of Antioch and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in an attempt to create a party or an organization that will work for these purposes. I've also finished a book in Arabic on the Greek identity of the Orthodox Church of Antioch (with over 100 historical bibliographical references).

In fact the lack of a party is the cause of forcing our youth to join Arab parties and are now saying that we are Arabs and create problems between our Greek brothers and the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Land, supported by the Arab parties and ploted by the Jews.

If you support us will become stronger. Do not forget that a large number of your people live here. If we forget that Greece might lose another piece of the vast empire built on blood and sacrifices of our Greek ancestors.

Thank you listened to our appeal.

Samn! said...

Cheers, thanks... I'll post it after the Carol Saba post has been up for a day or so (I like to space my postings out a little bit so that people have time to read them). Is the translation your own?

NOCTOC said...

I used the automatic translator and I corrected it (using the Greek original fathfully) where it made no sense.

I noticed that I forgot to correct the last sentance where it says "Thank you listened to our appeal". It should read " Thank you for listening to our appeal".