Antiochian patriarchs make an appeal to 'preserve democratic values'

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The five patriarchs, Catholics and Orthodox, call on political leaders to put aside personal interests and give Lebanon a new president. They also decided to set up "a joint commission that would boost cooperation among Antiochian Churches and organise joint activities." They also call on the world not to forget Syria and Iraq.

Beirut - The appeal to "preserve the democratic values" and freedom made by the five patriarchs of Antioch, Catholic and Orthodox, comes at a time when some groups are trying to impose theocratic rule in Iraq and across the East.

In Lebanon too, there are some disturbing signs, such as the bombing of a café in Tripoli during Ramadan fasting hours and the announcement by the Free Sunnis of the Baalbek Brigade that they have set up a special group to attack churches.

In their appeal on Tuesday from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Balamand, the five patriarchs (pictured) gave thanks "for the climate of freedom which Lebanon continues to enjoy, despite the difficulties it is going through." They also called on decision-makers "to preserve the democratic values, freedom, and political pluralism on which Lebanon is based."

Invited by the Patriarch John X for the opening of the annual Greek Orthodox Synod, the five patriarchs of Antioch - John Yazigi X, Beshara Boutros al Rahi Maronite), Ignatius Ephrem II Karim (Syrian Orthodox), Ignatius Youssef III Younan (Syro-Catholic) et Gregory III Laham (Greek Catholic) - call on Lebanese politicians "to rise above personal interests and hasten to elect a new president who will guard the unity of Lebanon; return government institutions to their normal functioning; in particular the Assembly of Representatives and the cabinet; and make the State capable of coping with the current severe economic, social and security crises."

It should be noted that Lebanon has been without a president since 25 May because of parliament's failure to pick a new head of state, a position normally reserved for a Maronite Christian.


Patriarch John X, talking about the inter-church meeting that preceded the work of the Synod, said that it "was an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of a united witness to the risen Christ in the Antiochian area and across the Mashreq (the Arab East)," which is "the sincere expression of the unity of life and destiny that brought them together and of their willingness to strengthen the Antiochian unity."

For this reason, the patriarchs decided "to create a joint commission that would boost cooperation between the Antiochian Churches and organise joint activities."

Duty of hospitality towards Syrians and Iraqis

Speaking about the war that is raging in Syria and Iraq, the patriarchs called on the faithful to share the sufferings caused by the war and offer hospitality, whenever possible, to their brothers forced into exile.

At the same time, they asked that Christians "remain connected to their land and not leave it under the pressure of circumstances, because it is mixed with the sacrifices of past generations and because Christ chose them to live and bear witness to Him."

In their plea, the patriarchs demanded "the return of all hostages, lay and religious, starting with Bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi, who disappeared for 14 months, whilst the world is passively and silently witnessing the worst violations of human and community rights of our time".

The reference is obviously to the atrocities committed by fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the areas now under their control.

The patriarchs went on to pray "for Syria that is being tested", and asked for "an end to violence" as well as "the mutual accusations of apostasy" to be replaced instead by "the language of justice, shared sincere life, and reconciliation."

Praying "for Iraq, in particular for the people of Mosul and the north of the country, which is currently in a very precarious situation after the capture of the city and the move by ISIS into the Nineveh Plain," they urged the international community to "save Iraq from disintegration" and "preserve man and his cultures, in particular the Christian culture."

Speaking about Christians, they invited Iraqis to "preserve their presence, land and property and save their long tradition of coexistence".

The patriarchs also prayed that Egypt's "culture of restraint" be safeguarded and renewed their appeal for the Palestinian cause.

Lastly, they issued their greetings to Muslims for the month of fasting of Ramadan.

Fady Noun

Source: (Jul 3, 2014)