Most Holy Father,
I would like to address you in the name of God, who is known in Islam as the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Your Holiness, I am not a believer in all what religions have brought, but I do think that they have preserved the existence of human and therefore humankind when they sanctified human life and preached that human was created after the image and paragon of his Creator, who is the epitome of sanctity itself. In my opinion, the greatest message of all heavenly religions is the preservation of life. Without this message, this humanity, which we see today, would not have existed; we would not have lived to enjoy its achievements and creativity, and we would not have been creatures brimming with faults and defects; yet possessing a sacred thing, that is, their lives, which their Creator has bestowed upon them. He overlooks their many stupidities and mistakes because He is Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
Sir; I am Syrian, Arab and….. Christian. I am a citizen belonging to a region that throughout its extensive and turbulent history has known how to make its human, religious, cultural and political components coexist with each other. True, the region did not know the theory of tolerance, but it had lived that tolerance and practiced it hundreds of years before John Locke wrote his great book. I have no doubt that Your Holiness knows and acknowledges that it is this region that coined most of the concepts that laid the foundations for the establishment of human civilization: from religion, to abstract thought, numbers, agriculture, domestication of animals, smelting metals, the State, methods to harness nature, writing, music, painting, dancing… and you know that Islam—the last of the religions of this land—sees in its message the rightness of all previous religions, which is why it shows them the sincerest of respect. Your Holiness, you just have to read what the Quran says about Jesus “the Spirit of God” and his mother Virgin Mary “the purest of all women on Earth” to realize the difference between its text and any other text in history that has been written about them. Your Holiness, you just need to mention the name of Jesus in front of any Muslim and you will hear him say in all reverence “Our Lord Jesus, peace be upon him.” Similarly mention his mother’s name and he will say with great reverence “Our Lady Mary” followed by “peace be upon her.”
Finally, your Holiness is aware that Christianity has lived in this Orient, its homeland, for just over two millennia along with other religions and messages, the most important of which is Islam, which did not arrive to remove all of what pre-existed, but to incorporate what is right and embed it in its totality. This is why you can consider us Muslims in this deep spiritual and intellectual dimension, for Islam carries part of our Christianity. Similarly, Muslims are considered Christians in some aspects of their magnanimous religion. Otherwise, they [Muslims] would have not respected our historical presence amongst them even though their religion is a missionary one, and they would not have always remembered that God’s Mercy requires Muslims to be merciful towards all of His creatures. True, it was not like this all the time, but those were very few exceptions and the situation was like this or close to it over the vast majority of history. Otherwise, how could Your Holiness explain the continuance of Christianity in the Orient following the Crusades, which Muslims labeled as the “Wars of the Firanja ” in order not to desecrate the Cross? Who protected Christianity and Christians after the crushing defeat of the Firanja by Muslim armies, in which Christians participated? Your Holiness, I can honestly tell you that their [the Christians] belonging to the Muslims and the Muslims belonging to them is what has protected them: did not the Christians of Syrian cities open the gates of their cities to the army of their Muslim cousins to lift the burden of the Roman Byzantine Christians from their shoulders? Also did not a Christian fighter in the army of his cousins and people, the Muslims, shout out in jubilation during al-Qadisiyyah battle against the Persians, “I swear to the God of Ka’ba I have killed Rostam,” when he slew down the commander of the Persian army?
Today there are many attempts to sever this historical partnership by various parties; both Christian and Muslim as well as fundamentalist, extremist institutions and organizations that have adopted sectarian view points and jurisprudential readings forged in the most backward and fanatic parts of the Muslim world. These currents do not wage war against Christianity alone but, first and foremost, against moderate Islam; the religion which the Arabs have spread everywhere, and which till this day is considered by them to be the true Islam, of which they are the carriers. On the other hand, there are extremist Christian Churches that view Muslims as the enemy whom they are forced to live disgruntledly with. They do not view them as their close partners, with whom they have interacted under the grace and mercy of God for so long. There are clerics who consider themselves combatants fighting a belated battle that should have been decided ages ago; and today they are the vanguards and pioneers in this battle, inflaming its fire that burns believers on both sides and mergers with the fire ignited by their Muslim, fanatic counterparts.
The issue, Your Holiness, is that they are relying on you for support, maybe without your knowledge, and waging their battle under banners, they claim, you also raise, and in the name of a religion they say they share its stakes with you, and that you are part of a world that, they claim, is against the Arabs and Muslims. This world, according to them, will be victorious only after a vicious religious war, for which they cannot find a precedence in our Oriental history; so they envision this battle in a similar vein to those wars that were waged among Christian sects and denominations in Europe at the turn of the modern era; and also they envision themselves to be waging it on the side of the Europeans and on behalf of Your Holiness and what you represent. Therefore it is crucial that You address them in unequivocal words to steer them back to sound judgment and remind them that there is not and there will not be a Christian-Muslim war and that Christianity should not support any war against anyone, especially the war waged by the Syrian regime against its own people in the name of fighting terrorism—which it [Syrian regime] has long supported, nurtured, trained its perpetrators, allied itself with its powers, and used it inside Syria and also on the Arab and Islamic level—or any other name; because, to borrow a Qur’anic expression, “taking life, which God has made sacred” is an unforgivable crime, and because the Syrian regime warplanes do not kill the enemies of Jesus, but rather bomb safe cities and towns, in which it is impossible to distinguish between the terrorist and unarmed children, women, elderly and youth, possibly killing hundreds of unarmed and innocent people for each one of those armed people, who were forced by the regime’s official, blind and continual violence to take up arms to defend themselves.
The Syrian regime is not waging a battle to defend Christianity so that it deserves the support of Christian churches and priests. It is indeed fighting in defense of its despotism, privileges and ability to degrade human dignity, invoking secularism as a pretext. The truth is that its “secularism” is nothing but a religion of power that forces you to worship its leaders and symbols as political gods imposed by totalitarianism in order to be worshiped by their subjects, who are not allowed to commit the sin of polytheism by worshipping other gods, including the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Otherwise they should expect the fury of the ever-ready tanks, artillery, and warplanes and they will be subjected to violence that will claim their souls every day without leaving a single square meter of Syrian land, from north to south and east to west, outside its grip.
The regime also is not wagging the battle to defend Christians, who are not exposed to any threat greater than the stupidity of some of their churches and priests, which reached an extent that they bless the killing of children, women and elderly and organize dance parties in celebration. They see it as a war to rescue them from terrorism and extremism, as if the unlimited, official violence is neither terrorism nor extremism, and as if the regime’s victory justifies accepting the sacrifice of a single human being by a regime that has rejected the many political solutions that were proposed to it, and chose the path of violence and mass murder. It got support from a church that claims to belong to Jesus of Nazareth, the staunchest opponent to violence in human history, and the son of peace, who called himself on numerous occasions the son of the people and the son of God: the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
Sir, please return the Church to its righteous path and remind it that Christianity persisted in the Orient after “Wars of Firanja” only because the Christians stood on the side of the righteous, with their cousins against those who wanted to subdue them. Today their Church is giving away their historical credit and exposing them to unknown circumstances that will certainly be very dangerous to them, if they side with a failing regime that does not know how to stay in power without cannons, warplanes and tanks destroying its country’s cities and villages that are demanding freedom, democracy and those values that made the modern world without creating a barrier between religion and humans or humans and the Church.
Your Holiness, Christianity in the Orient is in grave danger, not because it is threatened by Islamic fundamentalism, but because it is managed by a Christian, fundamentalist mindset that is practiced and adopted by clerics who are leading some of its divisions. Their policies and their inhuman and immoral positions are placing the knife on the neck of Jesus the Nazarene because, for the first time in history, Oriental Christians are positioned against their oppressed cousins, whose only guilt is their attempt to save themselves from a slow death by calling for liberty—which is considered by a philosopher of the caliber of Hegel to be first introduced to history by Christianity and that it is its greatest and most everlasting achievement.
Your visit will be important. It could even represent a turning point in the history of Christianity and Islam. Do not contribute nor approve the destruction of the temple over the heads of Arab Christians. Extend your blessed hand to rescue them from stupidities committed by their churches and clerics. Otherwise there will come a day of regret when you say: no one was honest with us and told us the facts. You will innocently wonder: why did you remain silent on a crime that was committed by priests in the name of Jesus the Nazarene, who wanted the temple to be clean and pure, but they polluted it with sins that resulted in shedding the blood of those people he had scarified his life for, while his clerics were driving them to utter doom?