Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fr Georges Massouh: The Neglected Human in Syria

Arabic original here.

The Neglected Human in Syria

Over the past two centuries, Christians in Syria have adopted secularist proposals for the revival of their nation and the establishment of a civil state, a state of citizenship governed by total equality, where religion and the state are completely separate. These proposals were manifested in the commitment of many Christians to nationalist or pan-nationalist parties, to the point that most of these parties were founded by Christians or had Christians among their founders. Christians in Syria, together with Muslims, contributed to the struggle against Ottoman tyranny, against the French mandate and against the Israeli rape of Palestine... At no point did they ever advance a sectarian, factional or divisive option... Indeed, they only opted for common grounds on which to build national cooperation with Muslims and other fellow Syrian citizens.

Christians in Syria are proud that over the course of history their country has been a refuge for the oppressed who fled to its cities, villages and deserts, which has made it multiracial, multicultural and multilingual, with diverse religions and denominations. The last to find safety there were the Armenian Christians who were targeted by racist Turkish massacres and who were welcomed by the people of Aleppo and all of Syria, Christian and Muslim, as honored guests then as fellow citizens with full citizenship.

The fact that none of the great dreams for which the thinkers of the Nahda strove-- first among them the civil state-- is due to many causes, among them: the creation of Israel, dependence on dictatorship and single-party or single-personality states and using the suppression of freedoms as the means of authority and governance... This led to the appearance of extremist religious movements that adopted violence as a means of achieving their goals, the chief of which is the establishment of the religious state, according to their particular understanding of religion and religious law.

Today, in light of what is happening in Syria, factional voices are being raised in every religious community calling for the defense of those who belong to their own sect and ignoring the other elements of the Syrian people. Sunnis advocate for the Sunnis, Christians for the Christians, Shiites and Alawitess for the Alawites. Most of these voices do not desire truth and peace in Syria. Those who create divisions between one Syrian and another, those who regard the blood of one Syrian to be more precious than that of another Syrian, those who regard the stone of one place of worship to be more precious than the stone of another place of worship, those who regard one village to be more important than another village are the ones who are inciting further fragmentation and chaos.

Syrians who believe in the civil state and its importance, Muslims and Christians, must be careful to not slip into sectarian attitudes that deepen the rift and increase the gap between people with good intentions. Whether we like it or not, Syrians, Christian and Muslim, have a single fate tied to the fate of every Syrian citizen. The destruction is general and comprehensive and is not limited only to Christians, their villages and churches and it is not limited only to Muslims, their villages and mosques.

In closing we say and repeat for those who need to be reminded, that Christians in Syria do not live in an isolated island. Rather, along with their Muslim partners they make up a single fabric... The thing that harms the Christians most is to limit their demands to that which pertains only to their sects and their churches... Churches and mosques that are destroyed, we can build others, but the unique Syrian person who is killed by a bullet, who can bring him back? The human person, any human person, is holier than any place.

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