SYRIA/ “Blessed are the peacemakers”
Gregorios III (Melkite-Greek Catholic Patriarchate)
A letter by Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch, on the Church's attitude to the widespread talk of arming Christians, and on the role of the Church and of her bodies in supporting mediation and reconciliation in the country.
Damascus, 3 August, 2012
“Blessed are the peacemakers”. With these words Our Lord exalts peace-makers, saying that “they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5: 9).
Through these same Gospel words, I should like to explain the Church’s attitude to the widespread talk of arming Christians, especially in Damascus:
1.No official has spoken to us about arming Christians.
2.We have never contacted any official and we have never asked for our Christian children to be armed, in Damascus or elsewhere.
3.We have never considered – and never will – arming ourselves.
4.Furthermore, we believe that the attempt to arm Christians, from whatever quarter, involves a danger of sectarian conflict and exposes predominantly Christian districts to attacks of unknown origin.
5.We call upon all our faithful, in all parishes, to refuse offers of arms. We remind them of the teachings of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” (Matthew 26: 52) And also, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth... Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5: 5 and 9)
6.We remind them likewise of Saint Paul’s teaching, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12: 18) Our role as Christians is one of mediation and reconciliation: of being bridge-builders between the children of the same homeland. That is the finest mission that we could carry out for our country, Syria, for our brother and sister fellow-citizens of all denominations, regardless of political party, tribe, region or persuasion.
7.We have not stopped calling for this, ever since the outbreak of the crisis in March, 2011. That is the role of the Church and its pastors – Patriarchs, bishops, priests – monks, nuns and lay-persons involved in various sectors of activities and services of the Church. Our churches, schools, institutions and confraternities are all schools of peace, faith, virtue, love and frank, sincere fellow-citizenship and respect for all.
8.I recall a saying of the late Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople, "I am no longer afraid, because I have laid my weapons down!"
Our Lord calls us to this in the Holy Gospel, "It is I, be not afraid!" (Matthew 14: 27; Mark 6: 50; John 6: 20) And also, "Be of good cheer! I have overcome the world." (John 16: 33) And John the Evangelist tells us, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." (1 John 5: 4) Let us add: faith in our brethren, our homeland and our sincere, humane national values.
We pray God to deign to bring back love to the hearts of all Syrians, so that they will have no need of weapons or fear of massacres, for they will be living together, as children of the same family and the same homeland.
We implore him: God of peace, grant peace to our country.
+ Gregorios III - Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Of Alexandria and of Jerusalem
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