Friday, December 9, 2016

Fr Georges Massouh: "The Poor We Have With Us Always"

Arabic original here.

"The Poor We Have With Us Always"

There is no doubt that Saint Luke stresses in his gospel more than the other three evangelists the importance of care for the poor and needy. Where Saint Matthew recounts Christ saying in His Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3), we see Luke transmitting the same words of Christ in the following form: "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20). "The poor in spirit" becomes simply "the poor" without any qualifier.

In this context, Christ says to one of the leaders of the Pharisees, "When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just" (Luke 14:12-14).

At the threshold of the glorious Feast of the Nativity, we need to recall these words and to act according to them. When Christ affirms the necessity of inviting every sort of poor person, He means to tell us that if we want to invite Him to join us in the feast, then we must invite all the poor to the feast and in this way we will have sent Him a special invitation and their presence at the feast will be His own personal presence.

Two weeks before Christmas, we read in the Church the Parable of the Banquet (Luke 14:15-24), which comes directly after the passage taken from the Gospel of Luke above, so as to place even more importance on the centrality to obtaining salvation of love for the poor. Or, as Saint Cyril of Alexandria said, "Because they were hard-hearted, Christ gave them a parable in which He explains to them the nature of the time that He establishes for them." As for the parable itself, it talks about a man who throws a lavish banquet and invites many people to it. None of those invited accept his invitation, making various excuses. He then sends His servant into the town squares and streets in order to invite "the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame," who immediately accept his invitation. At the end of the parable, the one making the invitation says, "none of those who were invited [and refused the invitation] will taste my banquet."

The one making the invitation in the parable symbolizes God. As Cyril of Alexandria says, "The comparison here represents the truth and is not itself the truth." Cyril then wonders who the servant represents in the parable. He answers, "Who is the one sent? He is a servant. Perhaps he is Christ. Although God the Word is God by nature and the Son of God who proclaimed Him to us, He emptied Himself and took the form of a servant."

The tradition of the Church has realized that in this parable, Christ identifies with the poor of every kind-- that is, with those invited. At the same time, He identifies with the servant who was sent to invite them. Christ is the one inviting and the invited at the very same time! We said that He is the inviter and the invited because the one making the invitation is identical to his servant because his servant is of no less dignity than he is.

At Christmas, we are called to imitate Christ, Whose feast it is, so we invite Him to the dinner by inviting His loved ones among the poor. In this way, we resemble Christ twice over: by playing the role of the one making the invitation and by caring for the poor who are invited just as we care for Christ Himself. Here we are met with Christ's words to His disciples shortly before He was arrested: "The poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always" (John 12:8). Yes, the poor we have with us always and in them we have Christ with us always.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Situation of the Orthodox Church in Aleppo

Arabic original, posted November 29, here.

Archimandrite Mousa al-Khasi to Telelumière:
Our Diocese in Aleppo Deserves to be Called the "Diocese of Job"

"He established in our Archdiocese of Aleppo, Alexandretta and Their Dependencies a good seedling and institutional activity without peer. In his absence, just as in his presence, the deposit of this good seedling flourished. What we see today in terms of clinging to the land and the Church and holding fast to the faith and values is the result of the nurturing that members of the diocese received at the hands of our pastor, Metropolitan Paul Yazigi and his approach will continue, as we hall hope for his return."

With a lump in his throat, with great hope for the return of Metropoltian Paul Yazigi, his vicar Archimandrite Mousa al-Khasi spoke to the television channel Telelumière from the offices of the Greek Orthodox diocese in Aleppo, saying, "Our diocese has been subjected to tragedies and great hardships, to such a degree that it deserves to be called 'the diocese of Job'. The first of these tragedies was in Tabaka, from which around 180 families fled. Then the tragedies reached Idlib, with the same suffering in terms of destruction and forced expulsion, but the apex of these tragedies was in the city of Aleppo, where we lost ninety percent of our properties, which were subject to vandalism and destruction. And the great pain remains the kidnapping of Metropolitan Paul and his absence from his diocese."

Archimandrite al-Khasi continued, "In addition to losing a large proportion of our properties, fifty members of our diocese have been killed due to the security situations to which Aleppo has been subjected, not to mention the difficulties of social life, the deterioration of infrastructure, the lack of electricity and its constant interruption, and the lack of drinking water, medicines and other necessities of life."

He adds, "On account of this standard of living, we are confronted with a harsh pain, the emigration of members of the diocese to places outside Syria and the exodus of many of them to more secure regions of Syria, to the point that the proportion of those who have left has reached forty-five to fifty percent," explaining that the original number of the church's families in Aleppo was around 4300, of which only 2200 remain on account of the tragedy in Aleppo. "Despite the shrinking number of families due to hemorrhaging emigration, we have on the other hand we have the steadfastness in faith of those remaining, the attachment of the youth to their church and the activities that they undertake, like a hive of bees ceaselessly working day and night to fulfill the mission of their pastor Metropolitan Paul Yazigi. They have not lost hope for his return. The tangible things that we are seeing now make us feel that he is present. We are working so that he will be present and the good seedling that he planted is a deposit for us that we will pass on even better."

Regarding the church's institutional situation, Archimandrite al-Khasi states, "We have six churches in Aleppo, a diocesan council, a youth group, a choir, the St Elias Scouts, various brotherhoods, Sunday schools, and the al-Mashriq Model Schoool,which was looted and pillaged. Faced with this vast amount of tragedy, the Church did not stand idly by, but rather was distinguished by a tenacious will and resolve and made plans and established church institutions in order to deliver a message, which is that the fierce winds will not be strong enough to erase the culture of values and to uproot it from its roots. Therefore our father Patriarch John X has not abandoned Aleppo for a moment. It is at the heart of his daily spiritual and institutional work and for this reason our diocese, despite the absence of its pastor, has not been an orphaned diocese, but rather a diocese flourishing even in moments of weakness, receiving  attention from our father the patriarch and from the fathers of the synod who have embraced this diocese spiritually, morally, and materially."
He added that, with the blessing of Patriarch John X and through the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, he has prepared a range of projects and programs that provide job opportunities for people so that they can work and live with dignity, starting with a charity dispensary that he established with the support of the Nour el-Ehsan Association, which provides medical necessities at nominal prices. The church also has a charitable committee that helps with difficult surgical operations in addition to distributing medicines through the Department of Ecumenical Relations and Development and the Red Crescent.

Archimandrite al-Khasi continued, "There have come to be needs at various levels, including the issue of education and strengthening cultural development. We launched the 'Good Seed' program and opened the Mar Elias Kindergarden, which is a largely free kindergarten."

In closing, Archimandrite al-Khasi thanked the delegation from Telelumière for their work and praised the channel's role and the delegation's courage in presenting the Christmas activities that the diocese in Aleppo will undertake, including Christmas concerts and exhibitions, the proceeds from which will go to support needy families. The archimandrite stated that, "Despite the difficulties, our God is present among us, in our faith, and in our hearts."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Met Saba (Esber): The God of the Bible

Arabic original here.

The God of the Bible

There are certain erroneous or distorted beliefs that are widespread among the faithful. In this brief note, I am concerned with the one that starts out from the basis of the Bible to erroneously state that the face of God in the Old Testament is not the same as in the New Testament. Some believe that God in the Old Testament is only a god of war, cruelty, violence and racism, while in the New Testament, He is only a god of love, forgiveness, mercy and kindness.

This erroneous belief is the result either out of ignorance of the Old Testament, its interpretation and its structure or under the influence of misconceptions similar to the approach of those critics of the Bible who attack it for reasons too numerous to refute here. In each case, the approach to the bible is wrong because it is not a theological approach to a religious book. Many also arrive at erroneous conclusions because they do not understand the essence of inspiration in Christianity or because they take a merely historical approach to the Bible.

In Christianity, divine inspiration has taken place over the course of a long pedagogical relationship of about eighteen and a half centuries. God inspired humankind with what He wanted to say through the historical events that they experienced, speaking to them in their language and according to their understanding, gradually bringing them toward Him. The Bible is not a book of history, even though it uses history to speak theology.

By way of example and not exclusively, I will cite some verses of the Old Testament where God's face appears merciful, loving and forgiving:

"And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin...'" (Exodus 34:6-7, see also Numbers 14:18, Deuteronomy 4:31, Psalm 86:5 and 108:4, Joel 2:13).

God says, "I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love... I will not execute the fierceness of My anger... For I am God, and not man, the Holy One in your midst; and I will not come with terror" (Hosea 11:4 and 9).

"... But You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them" (Nehemiah 9:17).

"The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works" (Psalm 145:8-9).

And some verses of the New Testament show another face:

"Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God" (Revelation 19:13-15).

"Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’" (Matthew 22:13). 

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18).

Christ says, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels..." (Matthew 25:41).

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites" (Matthew 23:13).

These verses, and many others besides in both testaments, show us that relying on an individual verse in isolation from its context leads to misunderstanding, very often completely contrary to its intended meaning. Scriptural inspiration was first of all inspiration in action and not in writing. God intervened in the lives of people and then a group first of all. He set their life straight. He educated them. He disciplined them. He changed their way of thinking, revealing Himself to them to the degree that they could bear His light until inspiration reached its apex with total divine disclosure in the person of Jesus Christ. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." (John 1:14).

God incarnate spent around thirty-three years on our earth teaching, preaching, guiding, saving and fulfilling the dispensation of salvation completely. He did not leave us a single sheet of paper written by His hand. Rather, He sent the Holy Spirit to His apostles and His Church. He inspired some of them to preserve in writing what He taught them by word and deed.

The writers of the Bible in both its testaments read their experience with God and came to understand it by the Holy Spirit not at the time of its happening, but afterwards, then they learned God's intent and transmitted it to the faithful people.

How many times did Christ rebuke His disciples with harsh words because they did not understand what He meant?

God is the same in both testaments. His true image becomes clear in his accompanying sinful humankind until they reach the point of abandoning sin. Some find fault with the existence of sinful people-- and what human is without sin?!-- who played an important role in the history of salvation but they forget that God accompanies sinners in order to save them from their sin and has mercy on them with longsuffering until they repent and change. Dwelling on the sins that appear in the stories of people in the Bible is not important. The important thing is focusing on the grace that changes and transforms these sinners.

God has undertaken-- and continues to undertake-- the task of saving humankind. The Bible came into existence for their salvation because they languished under sin and were enslaved to the devil.

It is also necessary to pay active attention to reading the texts, especially the Old Testament, in a manner consonant with its genre. That is, not reading narratives, poetry, stories, proverbs and wisdom literature all in the same way. Rather, give each genre its due. Poetry is not direct speech like explicit commandments are.

It is likewise very necessary to know that in the Old Testament especially, history was the theater that God used to discipline humankind and to show them gradually through its events His pure divine image until it was completed in their eyes. The Bible very often uses historical events to give a religious-- that is, theological-- lesson.

Here is an example. The Book of Judges speaks of people playing an important role in trying times. It magnifies some of them, such as Samson, and attributes superhuman characteristics to them. All of this is with the intent of making it clear that God's hand, when it intervenes, reigns over all other powers. As for the theology intended by the recounting of events and wars that the judges waged, whether they really waged them as it appears or as it was preserved in the popular memory, it is the following:

When the people sins toward God, they break the covenant and God abandons them, handing them over to their enemies.The people become aware of their error and cry out to God, repenting and confessing, so God sends them a judge to save them from the oppression that has befallen them.

God is a father and a pedagogue. He is a lover and a judge. He is just and forgiving. He is kind and disciplines. He is powerful and tender. Does education not requires firmness and intensity, suppleness and tenderness? To the degree that a person is course and crude and cruel, he benefits from firmness, just as he benefits from sternness. Love is God's essence. His power is the power of love.

As for the superficial teaching that is popular among us, which focuses only on mercy, love and forgiveness, it is incomplete because it does away with the teaching and rebuking face of God who accompanies humankind until they reach the desired ideal.

Education's reliance in the past on fear, violence and punishment and its excessive use of this style does not mean that the correct manner of education today should ignore other aspects, such as judgment, justice and good or evil deeds casting man and all creation into heaven or hell.

May he who realizes his sins, is pained by them and sincerely walks in the way of repentance understand the meaning of the Bible and the essence of God's word and may he have constant nourishment.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Met Georges Khodr: The Path of Giving

Arabic original here.

The Path of Giving

A rich young man asks Jesus, "What should I do to inherit eternal life?" The Lord responds, "In order to enter the kingdom of heaven, you must keep the commandments," and He listed some of them. The young man said, "I have fulfilled these since my childhood," as though he was searching for something else in order to enter the kingdom of his Lord, which this new Teacher came to proclaim in Galilee and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Then Jesus replied, "You lack one thing: that you sell everything you have and give it to the poor. Then, come and follow Me."

What does this mean, "Sell everything you have and give it to the poor"? Does it mean that the rich must sell their homes and possessions? What do these words mean? Jesus didn't compromise with anyone. He explicitly stated to the rich young man that that it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. He then continued firmly, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." The Lord placed us before a great difficulty that we cannot downplay. The Gospel is not negligible. It is difficult and we must storm into the difficulty and understand how we can be saved despite the difficulty.

The needle means a needle and not anything else. So the Lord made a comparison and said that the camel-- and we can read it [in Arabic] as the very thick rope used to pull ships-- does not enter the eye of the needle. However we interpret it and however we read it in Arabic or Greek, it means at the very least that it is very difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

So what should we do, then? God said through David, "He has dispersed abroad, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be exalted with honor" (Psalm 112:9). That is, you cannot stay rich without sharing. The Lord's first intent is that we make people partners in the wealth with which we have been entrusted. Christianity has given this a clear interpretation through the fathers, when they said that the wealth that you have is fundamentally for all people. "The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein" (Psalm 24:1). The wealth that you have has been delegated to you to administer it for the sake of people and their benefit. Do not monopolize it for luxury and extravagance; this is unacceptable because luxury does not make people your partners. 

This means, at the very least, that one who is wealthy in terms of food, household goods and appearance should live like other people. He should not enjoy material things more than anyone else, nor should he take pleasure in an image that hurts the poor. At the very least, then, let us not would the poor with displays of luxury. At the very least, let us not live with an indecent image. You can own, but you must not enjoy, you must not take pleasure in what exceeds even what is imaginable. In the society in which you live, you must share with the people around you by giving liberally.

The Old Testament commands the believer to give a tenth of his earnings to the poor. This is no longer a command in the New Testament. In the Church, giving is not a specific number. We do not lessen what was required of the Hebrews, but rather we add to it. It is not true that it is imposed on each person who does not desire for it to be imposed upon him.

Therefore the issue is a command, a final command and not advice. It was a divine command, so that we may feel that others are our partners in God's inheritance and that they are one with us. So come, open your pocket. Open your heart. Give. Disperse. Distribute. Love the humanity to whom you give. Love the people to whom you stretch out your hand in giving. Consider the poor person to be master over you because he gave you the opportunity to give. If you walk in this way along the great and wide path of giving, if you give and disperse, do not consider yourself to be anything, but tremble because God said that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Memory Eternal: Irfan Shahid (1926-2016)

It has been brought to my attention that the great Palestinian-American scholar Irfan Shahid passed away earlier this month, on November 9. His funeral was held at Saints Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Potomac, Maryland on November 18. A brief sketch of his life and career can be found here and a wonderfully-detailed interview about his scholarly career can be found here.

His multi-volume Byzantium and the Arabs is foundational for the study of Christianity among pre-Islamic Arabs:

Rome and the Arabs
Byzantium and the Arabs in the Fourth Century
Byzantium and the Arabs in the Fifth Century
Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, Volume 1
Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, Volume 2, Part 1
Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, Volume 2, Part 2

Monday, November 21, 2016

Carol Saba: Eternal Russia- Her Saints and Demons

French original here.

Eternal Russia: Her Saints and Demons

Russia has been causing a lot of ink to be spilled lately. Particularly in France, on account of the new spiritual and cultural center that was just opened on October 19 of this year at the former sight of the headquarters of Météo France. The complex, which belongs to the Russian state, was set to be formally opened by the French and Russian heads of state but diplomatic tensions between the two countries reduced the scope of the official representation at the event. In an innovation at the level of diplomatic protocol, France, through the voice of her president, publicly questioned the advisability of the Russian president's coming to Paris in this context and then the latter decided to sulk. The new Russian cathedral dedicated to the Holy Trinity, one of the buildings of the complex next to the Eiffel Tower, is to be consecrated in December by Patriarch Cyril of Moscow. It now sits with its five golden onion domes on Quai Branly, not far from the place where President Jacques Chirac put the Museum of the Arts and Civilizations of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas now bearing the former head of state's name. The whole thing is thus a new tourist attraction, this time Russian, on the map of Paris monuments. Even before the Napoleonic military campaigns, Franco-Russian relations have always been of the love-hate variety and since then they have known cycles of rejection and attraction.

Russia is indeed fascinating. The Russia of yesterday and today is intriguing. Russia provokes a lot of ambivalence. Some idealize her. Others demonize her. General De Gaulle, who only ever called the Soviets "the Russians," refused to see in Soviet Russian anything other than "a temporary avatar of eternal Russia" and in her government "a modernized form of a deadly autocracy." The latest book by Pierre Goneau, published by Editions Tallandier, is dedicated to a study of the historical, political, cultural, artistic and spiritual depths of this eternal Russia, of this czarist Russia and its four centuries of imperial autocracy. The title chosen by this great specialist on Russia, professor at the University of Paris-Sorbonne and director of studies of the section for historical and philological sciences at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, already declares the enormous scope of the project: Histoire de la Russie, d'Ivan le Terrible à Nicolas II, 1547-1917. It is a wealth of information. A historical fresco that depicts the three times-- long, medium and short-- of Russian history. Writing that combines a novelistic style with the demands of historicity. A style that knows how to "enclose" personalities and periods, like Russian dolls, the great and the little history of eternal Russia. All the czars pass through it, the great and the less great, the glorious, the mysterious, the erased, the modest, the illumined, and the reasonable. A fresco also rich in portraits of emblematic figures of czarist Russia.

First, of course, Ivan the Terrible. This ambiguous, constantly tormented personality who in an excess of madness founded and combined political terror and a sort of radical mysticism whose secret and recipe only the Russians know. Then passing by Peter the Great, the builder, who constantly looked to Europe but who also embodied the Russian ambivalence, constantly oscillating between East and West. And how can we not mention Catherine II, that originally German czarina, an iron fist in a velvet glove, who knew how to not be a foreigner to the Russians, but rather knew how to fully embrace Orthodoxy and make herself to be seen by the Russians as one of their own. Then comes the figure of czar Alexander II, the civilized man, who dared to emancipate the serfs, one of the last great czars before the rumblings in the empire, before ending with the last of the czars, Nicholas II, the last of the Romanovs to sit on the throne, who distilled in the Russian subconscious the entirety of the Russian tragedy, the double image of the czar upon the throne and the Christ-like czar who experiences martyrdom along with his family in extremely dramatic circumstances.

Gonneau's book is a fresco that also arouses real reflection on the Russian syntheses that have been wrought century after century between different confluences and inspirations, those coming from the European, Germanic and Latin, Catholic and Protestant West and those coming from the Asiatic Mongol and Tatar East. The whole of Russia, past and present, is in the crucible of these different confluences. The Russian millefeuille can be discerned in these different historical and sociopolitical strata. This work also and especially provides a framework for understanding today's Russia, which is also, in its own way, decidedly czarist. It informs us of the major characteristic traits of this czarist Russia and of the typical profile that marks its political governance. It reveals the factors of continuity and the factors of discontinuity of such autocratic and imperial, centralized and decentralized governance and its strategies of influence and mental geopolitics. It also informs us of the universal, spiritual and cultural tensions that animates these monarchs and of the geopolitical and geostrategic projection of their influence in the world.

Gonneau's book is not just a book of history, but also one of useful keys for deciphering the reality of Russia today. The book begins with a question: how does one become czar, extending the question with a historical account of the coronation of Ivan the Terrible on January 16, 1547, before affirming that change is continuity in Russia and continuity is change. Eras and personalities change. What underlies them remains. "The Russia of the czars perpetuates itself until the abdication of Nicholas II on March 2, 1917. Then, everything changes... or nothing changes. Stalin was often described as a red czar and Moscow's Kremlin has always been the site of power par excellence." For those who wish to conduct an objective and dispassionate analysis of today's Russia, this historical fresco offered to us by Pierre Gonneau is an ideal help for reflection, analysis, deciphering and questioning. There remain questions that speak to Russia's today.

How does the eternal Russia evoked by De Gaulle extend into Soviet Russia, then post-Soviet Russia, then Putin's Russia? Is there a historical determinism to be seen in the endless repetition of these cycles of attraction and repulsion between Russia and the Europe that she nevertheless claims? How can the factors of incomprehension and misunderstanding that develop be defused? Is there in principle an incompatibility between Russia and Europe? The demonization of Russia by some is just as dangerous for world security as the idealization of Russia by others. In any case, Gonneau's book, which contains valuable keys for further study including maps, an impressive bibliography, a chronological guide to the czars, and an index [embarrassingly rare in French publications], as well as a genealogy of the Romanovs is enlightening in its attempt at better understanding Russia, her saints and her demons, her deadly ambiguities and creative inspirations. It invites the reader to see Russia differently from the black and white of the approximate analyses of the moment, because beyond persons and conjectures, what remains and abides is indeed eternal Russia.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fr Georges Massouh: Beware of Religious Nationalisms

Arabic original here.

Beware of Religious Nationalisms

Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim (d. 2012) believed that the chief task of Arab Christians lies in translating Christianity for the Arab world, a Christianity that addresses the Arab mind and Arab culture. By this he did not mean translating ancient, particularly Greek, texts into Arabic, but rather by this call he meant that "we arrive at there being a Christianity in which the one being addressed is the Arab person." In his opinion, Christianity is still intellectually closed-off and "Christians still speak to Christians, as though they were living in a bygone era." Therefore, Hazim believed that "our duty is to be able to speak to Muslims" (Ignatius IV, Mawaqif wa-Aqwal, Balamand University, 2001, p. 103). The question then for him is a question of formulating Christian discourse in clear Arabic language that reaches the mind of the Arab and also his heart.

Patriarch Hazim is a great figure of the Orthodox Church who contributed to the Church's revival during the second half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century. He played a major role in ecumenical work and the rapprochement between the churches, especially in the World Council of Churches and the Middle Eastern Council of Churches and he was open to dialogue with Muslims about fundamental issues with which people are occupied in their daily lives. For this reason, he set his sights on working for a Christianity that speaks in Arabic and is understood by Christians, Muslims, Jews and all those who live in the Arab world.

Hazim did not speak of "Arab nationalism," but he did speak of "Arab Christians" and did not attack Arab nationalism. He was not an Arab nationalist, but he was an Arab and he did not boycott Arab nationalists. The priority for him was Christ and His Church and therefore he did not believe in other ideologies that might hide Christ from others. For him, the Arabic language was a means and not an end in itself. It is a means for conveying Christ as Christians believe in Him to the hearts and minds of Muslims. The Arabic language is the vehicle of Christian evangelism in this region because it is the language shared with the majority of Muslims.

Some Christians in our country, rejecting any common denominator with non-Christians, claim that their roots are non-Arab and this is their own affair that we will not discuss here. At the same time, they claim that they have nothing to do with anything that is Arab, since they are Greek-Byzantine-Romans, Syriac-Assyrian-Chaldean-Arameans, or Phoenician Maronites, and God knows best... All of them criticize any national belonging, affirming their ecclesio-cultural choices while adopting a religious nationalism that is closed in on itself. They flee from a nationalism that brings Muslims and Christians together to a unilateralist nationalism that only unites them with members of their sect. A nationalist ideology in the face of a nationalist ideology!

In reality, this nationalism resembles nothing other than Jewish religious nationalism. About this, Patriarch Hazim said, "Those who isolate themselves, whoever they may be, internalize a sort of admission that they are 'God's own chosen people.' This is what the Jews fell into doing, but Christians may also fall into this and Muslims may fall into it as well. Therefore in this region we must a laboratory in which no one may isolate himself, lest each community come to reject the other communities and instead of being receptive to them and dialoguing with them."

The only thing that distinguishes Arab Christians from other Christians in the world is their Arabic language, which makes them responsible for conveying Christ to all who speak it. Is it possible in our country to spread the Good News of Christ in Greek, Aramaic, Armenian or any other ancient language? We are proud of our Church's history, her heritage and her ancient language, but we do not want to kill our present and our present mission in order to revive languages that make us prisoners to history.