Syria: the Church Makes an Appeal for Dialogue

Patriarch Gregory III Laham Speaks Out

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ROME, JULY 18, 2012 ( In recent days, several representatives of the Church have launched urgent appeals for dialogue in Syria, to put a stop to the bloody conflict between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and the opposing forces.

The latest appeal was made by the Greek-Melkite patriarch of Damascus, Gregory III Laham. “Thanks to their long history, Syrians can resolve this dangerous crisis by helping one another through love and forgiveness,” he said in a statement sent to the Fides agency.

“We launch an urgent appeal for dialogue, reconciliation and peace: this is one of the rarest languages, which many do not want to hear. We Christians, to whom the Gospel of peace has been entrusted, feel called to promote it,” wrote the patriarch, who singled out in the anarchy, the lack of security and the massive influx of arms, the greatest dangers for Syria today.

“Violence generates violence, which reaches all citizens, without distinctions of race, religion or political hue,” warned the head of the Greek-Melkites, who noted concern particularly for the Christian community, which he described as “the weakest link.” Christians are “defenseless, they are the most vulnerable to exploitation, extortion, kidnapping of persons and abuses,” he observed.

The patriarch exhorted the Churches to raise their voices “asking for reforms, liberty, democracy, the fight against corruption, support for development, freedom of speech.” “Today we ask for an end to the cycle of killings and destruction, especially against civilians in difficulty, of all faiths, who in reality and the real victims,” continued Gregory III Laham.

While he rejected a “campaign led against the Pastors of the Churches in Syria” – often accused of collusion with Assad’s Alawita (a minority) regime, the patriarch supports the Mussalaha (“reconciliation”) movement.

“We pray for the success of the Mussalaha movement, in which delegates of all the Churches are active, to bring unity and love to the hearts of all. This is what lays the basis for effective solutions to the tragic conflict,” wrote the patriarch, expressing the hope that Benedict XVI’s visit to Lebanon “will be a particular help for Syria, so that the conflict can end and the country flourish again.”

The Apostolic Vicar of Aleppo, Bishop Giuseppe Nazzaro also expressed his support for the Mussalaha popular inter-religious initiative.


“I believe that the Mussalaha initiative must be encouraged and supported by all,” he told the Fides agency. “Reconciliation, even though at times it is hard to accept, is a way that must not be neglected or underestimated.”

“From my experience in the matter, especially that of my fellow Franciscans, called to intervene in delicate situations, I believe that the Mussalaha“ movement “should be supported,” said Bishop Nazzaro.

The movement, described as a “third way” in the conflict, and promoted by a platform made up of civilian and religious leaders, was born “from below” and is geared to ”internal dialogue” between the two factions in the fight, in order to put an end to the shedding of blood and to come to a way out of the crisis,” Fides explained.

An appeal for dialogue was also launched by the director of the Tabbaleh ecumenical center, Franciscan Father Romualdo Fernandez, rector of the shrine dedicated to the Conversion of Saint Paul in the Syrian capital, Damascus. “The master way to come out of the crisis is dialogue between the parties,” he said last Friday to Fides.

“We ask all to accept to sit around a table and to begin a meeting that can avoid violence, deaths, slaughters and massacres, which for too long have bloodied the country,” continued the Franciscan friar, who expressed his closeness to the population.

“We are side by side with the suffering population, with Christians and Muslims, and we will never leave this country. We will stay in Syria at the service of the Gospel. We were here yesterday, we are here today and we will be here tomorrow, in times of peace and in times of war, in dark times and in luminous times.”

Preoccupation over the deterioration of the conflict was expressed today by the Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, Archbishop Mario Zenari. “People are afraid to leave their homes in the afternoon and in some quarters also during the day,” said the Vatican diplomat to AsiaNews.

“The international community must help Syria not to fall into the abyss and to seek to speak with one voice. Alone the country is unable to liberate itself from this tragedy,” said Archbishopr Zenari to AsiaNews. 

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