01/03/2006, 00.00
LEBANON - SYRIA

Sfeir and Ignatius IV preach peace in beleaguered Mid-East

by Youssef Hourany

The Maronite Patriarch drew attention to the urgent need to distance oneself from hate and the language of death, while his Greek-Orthodox counterpart in Antioch criticized those "who preach collaboration and do nothing but commit massacres and murders".

Beirut (AsiaNews) – Peace in the Middle-East is undergoing a highly critical period in many countries, from the Holy Land to Iraq, from Syria to Lebanon. This precarious peace and the prevalent link between current problems and international interests – that "value the object more than the subject" – were at the heart of homilies given by religious leaders in Lebanon and Syria.

In Bkerke in Lebanon, the Maronite Patriarch, Nasrallah Sfeir, illustrated the significance of the Pope's message for the World Day of Peace, insisting upon the need of living values of peace and distancing oneself from hate and the language of death. He reiterated the perennial stand taken by the Church, which preaches peace and tolerance, without forgetting the duty to safeguard those who are vulnerable and defenceless.  

Meanwhile, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Ignatius IV Hazim, during a homily delivered in the "Al Mariamieh" Cathedral in Damascus, criticized those who "preach collaboration and do nothing except commit massacres and murders".

The first day of 2006 appeared different to those of previous years, because in no country of the Middle East were there any signs of that joyfulness which usually marks festivities in the region. The negative developments in many countries weigh heavy, as does the economic crisis which has affected the region for several months now.

Cardinal Sfeir was critical of the many "authorities in this world who jeopardize the future of humanity by backing rebels" and he observed with sadness the "advances in the arms trade, which is a dangerous development".

The Patriarch also had hard words for governments which promote the spread of fundamentalist movements in many places of the region, defining them as "movements which defame the face of God". The Patriarch appealed to all to promote dialogue and understanding among all peoples, pointing to principles to realize this dialogue: sincerity, faith in God, tolerance and welcome of the other, mercy, transparency, faithfulness, keeping one's word, the rejection of evil and the search for good.

Ignatius IV Hazim reiterated his full adherence to principles preached by many men of goodwill – who favour peace and understanding – and he called the attention of Syrian and Lebanese leaders to the need for sincere collaboration and the urgency of starting a new journey based on the human and religious values preached by Christianity and Islam.

The Patriarch of Antioch warned against the dangers threatening the region, urging all to forget the past and to turn to the future, criticizing those people who plant mischief instead of the good that should be sought after by all.

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