I am a Christian from the Levant, the Levant was…
From the speech of His Beatitude John X in Amman - Jordan
Your Beatitudes and Holinesses, in virtue and with great respect,
Your Highnesses, Excellencies and Eminences, honored congregation,
After rendering thanks to His Majesty, and to his Regal Council for the kind invitation delivered to us, I should like to address you from here in Amman, and also the world affirming some ideas, principles and aspirations which may portray vividly in your memory a recollection of what we were, what we are and how we shall remain as Christians, an inseparable organic constituent of this Islamo-Christian East.
I come to you, to Jordan from Damascus, which includes between us the tomb of Saladin and the sepulcher of the prophet Youhanna (Yahia). I come from the Mariamite church of Damascus, the neighbor of the Omayyad Mosque; I come from the wounded Homs, the city of St. Elian and the embracer of Khaled Ibn Elwalid. I come from the brightness of the snow of Lebanon and from the height of her mountains. I come from Beirut, the city of laws and from Tyre, the bride of southern Lebanon. I come to Hashemite Jordan, the neighbor of Palestine, famous for her Islamic and Christian places. I come to kiss the edge of Jordan River, where Christ the Lord was baptized.
I am a Christian from the Levant, the Levant was the first to call the followers of Jesus Christ “Christian”. I come from the womb of this land and, in front of the manger of Bethlehem I stand. Then I seek protection from Herod fleeing to Egypt. And from Egypt I return to Palestine and I follow Christ to the Edge of Jordan River, and from Jordan River, I accompany him to the lake of Tiberias. From there I go to Sidon in the south of Lebanon. Then, I follow him in his Via Crucis and I kneel in front of his life-giving sepulcher in Al-Kuds. From there I go back to Damascus, to see Paul converted within its walls and baptized by the hands of Ananias. From Damascus I go to Antioch to receive there the name “Christian” and to evangelize in company with Paul from its port all the earth with the teaching of Jesus Christ. All this, enables me to say that I come from this land; I was born in it, I live in it and I take its precious sands close to my heart when I leave for eternal life. All this is to say that we, the Christians of this East, are well rooted in our land, as the olive in the mountainside and we are ingrained in it, as the cedars in Lebanon.
To be well rooted in our lands, means, first of all, to have very good relations with those with whom we submit ourselves to the will of God Almighty, with our brothers, the Muslims, with whom we share not only a coexistence but a real mutual life, not a spirit of confraternity but a real brotherhood, not only an alliance but a concrete unity unbreakable by the machinations of the spoilers. The events of history are witnessing to all of this.
I, as a Christian of this East, testify to good relations and fraternity with Muslims, our dear brothers. I testify to this in the Promise of the Prophet, sealed by him, in which he asked the conquerors to deal well with the Christians. I see it in the wisdom of Omar Ibn Alkhattab, who, for his deep wisdom, did not respond to the demand of Patriarch Sophronios when he invited him to pray in the Church of the Resurrection. I see it in the case of the great ministers of the Omayyads, in the case of Mansour Ibn Sarjoun and his grandfather. I see it in a real fraternity transfigured through history in spite of difficulties sometimes. I see it in recent history, when Abed Alkader Aljazaeri protected some of the Christians in the events of 1860. I see it in the hand of Patriarch Gregorios IV Haddad, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, whose hand was the first and the last to salute the prince Faisal in the train station of Hijaz in Damascus 1920. On that day he said to him: “this hand which is extended to you will be extended to you always”. I am a son of the pious Antioch which opened her churches for Muslims in 1937, when the mosques of the Alexandretta region were closed to the Muslims. The hand of our predecessor, Patriarch Gregorios, which was extended to the King Faisal will be extended always to every Muslim in order to build with him a bright future.
We refuse that anyone should dress himself in the clothes of religion to cultivate a separation between people and thereby falsify the image of tolerant Islam and loving Christianity as we knew them and still know them. We also strongly resist that anyone should keep repeating vacuous sayings in order to try and break the sovereignty of states. We, in this beloved East, are not strangers to the Declaration of Human Rights. Charles Malik, of Lebanese identity, eastern birth and Orthodox belief, had a great role in formulating it in its recent form.
We do not see in religion a motive for separation and division, but a way for unity in the same country.
We do not accept that the face of Christ should be absent from the Levant and from the Arabic East, the blessed land of the prophets. Christians and Muslims of this East are the two lungs of a bright eastern body, which cannot survive except by the cooperation of these two lungs. Thus, the immigration of Christians from this east is an immigration of the same East from itself. This immigration (of Christians) is departure and distancing from its historic ethos. We and our brother Muslims have built the culture of our countries as a basis for the culture of the whole world.
From here, from the dear Jordan, neighbor of the beloved Syria, I address the internal and the external realities of Syria; I address all the world and the international family and I say: the land of Syria has conveyed to all the world the strength of culture, not the culture of strength. The Levant, Syria included, exported to the world the alphabet and the culture of letters not the culture of conflict. Do not export to Syria the culture of strength, but uphold for her the logic of peace. “Let my country live” said one of the sons of my Church concerning the beloved Lebanon, more than 30 years before. Now, and from Amman, the bride of Jordan, I say the same sentence to all the world “let our countries, in all this region, live”. Do not make of them a game in the hands of the great powers and a theater for their own self-interest. Do your best to render it a lighthouse for all the earth. We reject the logic of violence, killing and kidnapping, and we invite all the world to do more than its best to release the two kidnapped Metropolitans, Paul Yazigi and Youhanna Ebrahim and all those abducted. We also invite them to use all their efforts to push all parties into adopting the logic of dialog, political solutions, the refusal of violence and a refusal to use religion as a way of effecting division and separation.
O God bless the bright heaven of Jordan and its giving land. Provide its people and its governors with your divine gifts. God protect and keep the flowers of Damascus and keep its land united and safe. God bless the cedars of Lebanon, protect her citizens and give her the spring of your peace. God bless the land of the pure Palestine, give their children your divine breath and protect its sand. God, visit the Land of Nile, Egypt, as you visited it as a small child, bless its sons and cover it with your divine consolation. God visit, from your highest heaven, the beloved Iraq, dress her land with your divine grace. God fill your world with your divine peace and illuminate our souls to accomplish all this, for the goodness and peace of all your creatures.
God unify the hearts of your sons in the Levant and gather them to the one stream in permanent harmony, exactly as you gathered into one stream the eternal water of the Jordan River, from the Golan of Syria, the mountains of south Lebanon, the Galilee of Palestine and the verge of the Jordan.
O God grant us to receive your divine peace, so that at last we shall be transfigured as a spring of constant peace for all the earth. To thee be the glory unto ages of ages, Amen.
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