Melkite Patriarch of Damascus calls for urgent dialogue between government and youth
In a message addressed to Muslims for the end of Ramadan, the Catholic patriarch says, “it is not too late” for Assad to interact with the young people of the opposition. He criticises Arab government for being deaf to “the pain and aspirations of their peoples” and the United States and Europe for trying to impose their will.
Damascus (AsiaNews) – The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, speaking about the ‘Arab spring’ in an indirect address to President Bashar al-Assad, called for interaction between the government and younger Syrians currently in the opposition. He made the point in a message to Syrian Muslims on the feast of ‘Fitr’ (breaking ‘the fast’) that ends the month of Ramadan. The event begins tonight and continues for three days.
In his address, the patriarch mentioned the ‘Arab spring, which has turned into a ‘hot summer’ in which the “revolutions brought bloodshed to the Arab and Muslim world, destroying man, hearts, sentiments, brotherhood and compassion, as well as public and private institutions, causing thousands of victims, dead and wounded.”
In his message, Gregorios III also mentioned what, in his view, should have occurred, criticising the attitudes of Arab governments as well the governments of the United States and Europe. “We expected that in such tragic circumstances, the Arab world would have done something, that Arab and Muslim nations would have organised one summit after the other to study the pain and aspirations of their peoples, that they would have interacted with the revolutions of younger generations, that together, they would have analysed the cause and limits of these revolutions, the range and goals, risks and opportunities that they could represent for all of us, instead of allowing foreign forces, whatever their intentions, to interfere and meddle in our affairs, dictate to us their ideas, threaten our governments, call for our presidents to resign and leave their countries, and force those who had been the symbols of our Arab countries to be removed and put on humiliating trials.”
“It is never too late,” the patriarch said in what appeared to be an address to all Arab leaders, but was in fact meant for the president of Syria. “There is still a possibility for the leaders of our Arab and Muslim worlds to be serious about the slogans that echo in the streets of our capitals, cities and villages, to heed them and turn them into a joint Arab action plan, even an Islamic-Christian plan, in order to build a better world for our peoples, especially the young generations.”
“We cannot,” he added, “and do not have the right to ignore these voices, slogans and demands, whatever their overt or covert motivations may be. Our Arab world needs, we are convinced, an intellectual, spiritual and social revolution.”
For Gregorios III such a revolution must be non-violent, and must not adopt the model that some TV media have suggested since the start of the year.
From the point of view of the future and with some "captatio benevolentiae" for the head of state, the patriarch said that we must work “for a civilised Arab society in which social, confessional and ethnic differences disappear, in which our hopes for justice, equality, dignity, religious and personal freedom can be realised, in which we fight against corruption and develop the countryside, a society that helps the poor and the victims of injustice, especially in rural areas, where nature may not have been generous and modernisation may be lagging. It is a matter of working together to implement what is necessary to achieve political, social and domestic reform, which President Bashar al-Assad has promoted and continues to promote.”
In concluding, “We want to build a better society,” the patriarch said, “based on a civilisation of peace, brotherhood and love among the many different confessions that have lived side by side for centuries.”