Thursday, January 18, 2018

Met Elias (Audi)'s Speech about Jerusalem

Arabic original here.

The address of His Eminence the metropolitan of Beirut, Elias Audi, at the al-Azhar International Conference in Support of Jerusalem.

Janaury 17 and 18, 2018-- Cairo

First of all, I would like to salute the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, chairman of the Council of Muslim Elders, Dr Ahmed al-Tayeb, and thank him for inviting me to attend this international conference in support of Jerusalem, which is currently being subjected to a plain aiming to change its identity, obliterate its history, and defeat and displace its people.

The absence of justice suffocates the voice of truth. Earthly justice, whatever it is called, is imperfect, but falsehood is fleeting and the truth will inevitably shine forth and the oppressed will prevail.

What Israel is attempting to do, supported by the latest American decision, aims to present an image of Jerusalem that is contrary to its history, in addition to the architectural, demographic and political changes to the face of the city that it has undertaken in past decades. This causes it to lose its individuality and collective memory, transforming it into a city without a past and without a history.

Jerusalem has been and shall remain in our Christian, ecclesial consciousness the city of peace, the city where the Lord Jesus' feet trod from His childhood, in the corridor of whose temple He prayed, where He proclaimed the good news, and where He sacrificed Himself for humanity in order to save it. How can this city lose its identity and become a place that witnesses persecution of those who believe in God and their being crushed after the expulsion of their parents and grandparents?

We do not look at Jerusalem as a mere place, but as an essence that bears a spiritual meaning that transcends the vicissitudes of history and politics and their enmities and wars.

For us, Jerusalem is the holy city that witnessed the crucifixion, death and resurrection. It shall remain the place where glory is raised up to God Most High unto the ages.

Many have sung of Jerusalem and written poems about it, enumerating this city's qualities and the feelings it provokes. It is not by chance that it has been named "the flower of cities" because it is a white flower that brings together in its folds brothers in God, Christians and Muslims, since there is no true brotherhood except in God. It is the city of prayer, the city of all who believe in the one and only God, which we all long to visit and walk along the path of Golgotha where the Lord stepped, to receive a blessing from the Church of the Resurrection, the site of the ascension, the place where the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, the tomb of the Mother of God, and the other places of Christian and Islamic pilgrimage that abound there.

Human beings are our greatest concern in Jerusalem, which must continue to belong to is people, the Palestinians, and remain the city of prayer and peace, a place of coexistence between religions and peoples.

Here I would like to emphasize that as Antiochian Orthodox, we have always considered ourselves as the first to be in Jerusalem and the first to be concerned with it and its fate. We believe that the Palestinians are the masters of the house and have been made strangers and homeless.

As Middle Eastern Christians, we seek to please God and we seek God's face wherever we are, especially in Jerusalem and in the faces of our brothers, its children. We strive to realize truth and justice, to work to raise man's condition, and to preserve his freedom and dignity.

We are a people who believe that God created us free, that He became incarnate to deliver us from evil and sin and to return us to the bosom of the Father, making us His children by grace given to us from Him.

For us, man bears a divine breath. He is the locus of love and respect because he is created in the image and likeness of God. He is precious in the eyes of the Lord and the eyes of the Lords' beloved ones. Everything that strips man of his being an end in himself is a departure from God's will and His boundless love. Anyone who restricts man's freedom and deprives him of his rights contradicts heavenly teachings. Jerusalem is the right of its children just as Lebanon is the right of its children and so too in every country of our Middle East and the world. Therefore it is the right of the Palestinian people to live in their country, in their land, in their Jerusalem.

Here I recall the words of Patriarch Ignatius IV of thrice-blessed memory at the Islamic Summit in Taif in 1981: "Jerusalem is the heart of our humanity and what afflicts it afflicts every human being to some degree." In Lebanon, we have been afflicted by the wound of Jerusalem and of Palestine in general. We have opened our land and our hearts to our Palestinian brothers. We hoped that our hosting them would be brief and that they would afterwards return safely to their homes. But over a half-century has passed and they are still strangers on the earth. The world ignores them, the Arabs sleep, and Jerusalem still sorrows over the loss of her children.

Jerusalem, like Lebanon, is a place where brothers encounter each other, Christians and Muslims. It is a place where ideas, cultures and religions interact. Jerusalem concerns Christians just as much as it concerns Muslims and the concern for its fate is shared. From Jerusalem Christianity went out to the ends of the earth. There the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).

And so we are natives of Jerusalem just as the Lord Jesus is and no one can ignore history.

The true face of our Middle East, and of Jerusalem especially, is not authentically manifest if two voices are not raised together: a Christian voice and an Islamic voice, which constitute Middle Eastern twins that demand Palestinians' right to their land and Christians' and Muslims' rights to their holy places.

Our Middle East will not be sound in its essence if this core is not sound. And Jerusalem loses its meaning if it loses any one of its spiritual elements.

Let us together refuse for Jerusalem to be a political plaything or the launchpad for goals in which interests prevail over truth, integrity and justice. Let us not allow the earnestness of those who wish to rob us of Jerusalem to be stronger than the earnestness of our will to regain it.

Finally, we repeat with Fairouz:

The house is ours and Jerusalem is ours
And by our hands we will regain the splendor of Jerusalem

In the hope that the Lord God will extend the hand of His mercy to us, stop the bleeding in our homelands, heal our wounds, and spread His peace in our Middle East and throughout the entire world, I wish you every good thing and blessing from Him.

No comments: