Peace, Living Together and the Christian Presence in the Middle East

His Beatitude Gregorios III
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
of Alexandria and of Jerusalem

Address entitled:
Peace, Living Together and the
Christian Presence in the Middle East

October 12, 2010

Peace, living together and the Christian presence in the Arab world are linked together in a strong, existential way. Peace in the Middle East is the key to the welfare of the whole region.

We have always insisted upon the importance of the Christian presence in the Arab world. This unique presence is unfortunately threatened by the cycle of wars, crises and calamities that assail this region, which is the cradle of Christianity.

We consider that the calamities, crises, wars and depredations of the Middle East are the products and results of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Fundamentalist movements are similarly the results and products of this conflict, as are the discords inside Arab countries, the slowness of their development and prosperity and the growth of hatred, enmity, hopelessness and disappointment among the youth, who make up sixty per cent of their inhabitants.

The brain-drain, the emigration of thinkers, young people, moderate Muslims and especially Christians: all that weakens progress and its future; the Arab world’s freedom, democracy and openness.

Christian emigration represents a continual haemorrhage, causing Arab society to become monochrome, an entirely Muslim Middle East, over against a European society called Christian, although Europe and America are rather secularized than believing. If it were to happen that the East were emptied of its Christians, it would mean that any occasion would be propitious for a new clash of cultures, civilizations and even of religions, culminating in a destructive confrontation between the Arab and Muslim East and the Christian West, a conflict between Islam and Christianity.

Faced with what we see every day in the media about the growth of fundamentalism and religious, ethnic and social tensions in human relations, we feel that there is a great lack of trust between East and West, between Arab countries, in the majority Muslim, and the European and American West.

The role of Christians is to work, to harness themselves to creating an atmosphere of trust between the West on the one hand and the Arab and Muslim world on the other.

That is why we Arab Eastern Christians are telling European and American societies, “Don’t try to divide Arab countries through pacts, but rather help the Arab world realize its unity and solidarity. We tell you frankly, if you succeed in dividing the Arab world and Christians and Muslims from each other, each into their own groups, you will always live in fear of the Arab and Muslim world.”

Appeal to our Muslim Brethren and Fellow Citizens

In seeking to convince our Christian faithful to stay in their homelands, where God has planted them, we find we absolutely must talk to our Muslim brethren and tell them frankly the nature of the fears that haunt us and the kind of fearful attitudes that impel some of us to emigrate. They are not just purely religious reasons, but rather have a social, ethical and cultural aspect.

So when we are talking about living together and citizenship, we are speaking of separation between religion and state, Arabism, democracy, the Arab or Muslim nation, and human rights. Laws which are based on Islam as sole or chief source of legislation and application are a source of division and quasi racial distinction between citizens on the basis of religion and are an obstacle to equality before the law, diminishing equality of citizenship. One could say the same about exploitation of fellow-citizens on the basis of religion, while the perpetrators rely on the fact of being in the majority, to humiliate their neighbours and workmates.

Those and many other such things ought to be the subject of study circles, congresses, conferences and meetings in the Arab and Muslim world. Christians and Muslims together should identify the real wound underlying the haemorrhage of Christian emigration.

We propose that the Synod Fathers launch an urgent prophetic appeal for Peace. Peace-making is the great challenge!

Peace today is the great challenge: it is the great jihad for the greatest good. It is true victory and the true guarantee for future freedom, progress, prosperity and security for our young generations, our Christian and Muslim youth, who are the future of our countries and who can really make their history, carrying the banner of faith and values in their homelands.

Gregorios III


Index of the Documents Concerning the Council for the Middle East