Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fr Georges Massouh on Syrian Christians

Arabic original here.

The Christians are Witnesses of Syria's Unity

Syrian citizens categorically reject rumors that speak of the possibility of partitioning Syria, as was the case under the French mandate, into four statelets: the state of Damascus (Sunni-majority), the state of Aleppo (Sunni-majority), the Alawite state (Alawite-majority), and the state of Jebel Druze (Druze-majority). However, at the time all Syrians of every sect rejected partition and declared their faith in the Syrian nation as a nation that embraces all her sons.

These rumors, which express the hidden desire of some who would cut Syria up for sectarian purposes, remain unrealizable notions for the foreseeable future, at least. However, the rumors are fed by current events on the ground and spread like wildfire on account of the increase in sectarian resentment that has become manifestly evident after previously being almost hidden.

It is interesting that the rumors do not grant Syrian Christians (of whom a majority are Orthodox) their own particular entity. It is from God’s kindness for them and an outpouring of His grace upon them that they have no share in this immoral partition. For Christians to have a statelet would mean their betraying their religious and intellectual heritage and rejecting their civilization, history, culture, and their role and witness in the Arab Middle East.

The Christians of the Levant: Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian, are the people who, since the 19th century and the beginning of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, put forward plans for national unity, the separation of temporal and religious authority, secularism, and socialism. Christians in Syria did not adopt any sectarian option in the face of other religious sectarianisms. Instead, in all their decisions, they sought national cooperation with Muslims on the basis of total citizenship in rights and responsibilities.

The demographic factor, in terms of Christians being spread through all Syria from end to end, may have played a decisive role in their not being closed off in their own state. Christians in general—and the Orthodox in particular—are distributed like the Sunnis, over the entire space of Syria (Greater and Lesser). The difference between the two groups is that one is a numerical majority and the other is a numerical minority, though without being dominated by a minority complex.

Thus it is as though Syrian Christians have a distinctive role, recognized by all from the dawn of Christianity to the present day. Wherever they may be, they are seen by their compatriots, no matter what religion they belong to, as nothing other than a bridge of love that connects the broken relations between children of the one nation. Consequently, they bear witness to Christ and to His Church under any regime and within any society. They are not concerned with the religious affiliations of their neighbors and partners in citizenship. What concerns them is to love all and to strive for the good of all and for the progress and flourishing of their countries.

After a century of waiting for Arab unity, for Syrian unity, for the liberation of Palestine, for the elimination of sectarianism from hearts and texts, for realizing a true division between temporal and religious authorities, for building a civil state throughout the Arab world, or for the practice of human rights laws on the ground… You see us today with narrowed horizons, returning to the zero-point, to dreaming of Syria remaining one and unified, to hoping that the Lebanese will not enter into sectarian strife leaving nothing remaining... You're joking. By God, you're joking...

1 comment:

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Truly a cry from the heart. Prayers for the holy land of Syria.

Now, to brass tacks:

Syria's Christian intellectuals really need to drop their sentimental attachment to Ba'athism. What seemed workable at the Sorbonne in the 1930's when it looked like the USSR would last more than just two generations broke down very quickly in the application.

Where it seems "Arabs" are most stable and content is under their Salafist emirates, which are hard to imagine transposed to Syria and Lebanon, but that seems to be where NATO, Israel and the Gulf Arabs want things to head.

This begs the other question of how "Arabic" the Levant really is. What works for Gulf Arab tribes that were largely nomadic just a century ago is, frankly, an unjust and ahistorical imposition on the long-civilized and originally Christian and Hellenic Levant. And as we have also seen, socialism and one-party rule is ridiculous for a hugely diverse region which practically invented commerce and trade.