Christmas call 2011

Dear brothers and sisters,

Peace, love, solidarity and reconciliation, from our Savior,

We deemed appropriate to write you about the service of reconciliation, because we consider it part of our sacred duty and charisma. We retain that, in the treatment of the current tragic situation, adopting any non-evangelical project or trespassing, for any reason, the ethnics of our Messiah, or the positions of his most pure Mother, or the tradition of the disciples and apostles in the original church, is forbidden to us.

It is only obedience to our Master Jesus, the sweet of Nazareth, the humble of the Cross, the Messiah resuscitated from the dead, that will protect us against the evil of the time.

This year, comes back also the memory of the baby in his cave, born in a poor manger, because of his family’s poverty, of his homeless Mother, of his confused putative father. This vision does not please us, as the scene of the cross does not please us… But the Christ and his family’s sufferings, including persecution and adversity, shows us the right way in the current conditions.

Our country is in serious danger. Some of us have sided with one party, others with another party. Let us ask ourselves : where is our duty, as a community obeying to the Gospel ? Is our function not at the service of harmony and reconciliation, in the present as it was in the past?

Many prophesize a rapid end to the current dramatic events, through the success and victory of one party or another… Others count on an escalation of violence and finally the permanent division of the country, with hundreds of thousands of human victims, the loss of unity and independence, and the weakening of the country’s role and honor for an indefinite period.

Here is the first point that we wish to make : whatever happens in our country, in any way it happens, and whatever the outcome is, we will stay in solidarity with every Syrian, regardless of his political, religious, ethnic and linguistic affiliations. We will all stay in solidarity with our neighbors, we will not discriminate between one neighbor and another, other than in the defense of justice and the oppressed. Let’s prepare, for difficult times, to offer a shelter to our neighbor, whoever it may be. And we should know that in times of danger, the only one to protect us will be this neighbor, with whom we shared the bread of joys and pains since childhood.

It is not the moment to distribute blames or to judge between our fellow citizens in conflict. We must on the contrary say to everybody that we wish to serve reconciliation, and to prove this wish in our acts. In any case, at the end of the day, there is no way other than reconciliation. Everybody knows that, winner or loser, he will have to agree with his enemy one day, or to emigrate.

In these terrible days, full of hope and sadness together, of enthusiasm and pessimism, of courage and fear, of sacrifice and crime, we do not know what form our country will finally take. We do not know if the nation will keep its unity, and in which form. Will the citizens obtain more freedom, or lose the little they have ? Will they achieve a pluralistic, civilian, consensual democracy, where everyone is respected, in the whole contrasted spectrum of characteristics and identities? Or will the contrary happen, i.e. the oppression of the citizens by a rigid majority ‘s hegemony.

We feel that in this crisis, our role is one of dialogue, communication, bridges’ building and service to reconciliation. Does our choice for non-violence come from our fear and our weakness, or from a virtue, a decision ? Maybe both… But fear has led us for a long time, in the past and until today. As a result, some of us continue to support a policy consisting in suppression of liberties, refusal of change and sticking to the past. Is this the way of salvation and truth ? But does he walk on the way of hope and freedom, the one who chooses to carry out assassinations “on the ID”, kidnappings and other despicable practices? Does he behave so  pushed by fear and weakness? Last but not least, does religious or ideological zeal justify infringements to the human dignity of others, through excommunication or marginalization?

In spite of all this, we remained convinced that reconciliation happens between enemies, not between friends! And that it can succeed through an agreement that takes into consideration the reasonable demands of all parties. This is why we offer, in all humility, our service as Christians, not as a party but as mediators.

Second point : our role is only at the service of reconciliation. But reconciliation requires several fundamental conditions. In their absence, it would boil down to submission and surrender. The most important of those conditions are the acceptance of pluralism and freedom of opinion, freedom to express one’s opinions, freedom to spread them in full respect and appreciation of others’ opinions, and guarantees for every citizen’s integrity and dignity.

We should also bear in mind that Syria is not an island cut off from the world. It is related to other peoples, in all directions… Isolation stifles, isolation kills. Why Syria could not be a reconciliation place for parties in conflict in the region, rather than a battlefield, at the expense of our people ? We know how much our people has suffered to stay loyal to the project of Arabic nation… but does this nation deserve that we kill each other and betray each other in its name?

We are forced to hear, in those days, to speeches steeped in extremism, lacking any sense of balance. However, we do not find in the holy books, Ancient or New Testament, or Holy Coran, or spiritual works of the past or the present, anything that encourages division between people, reclusion or non-listening to the opinions of others, created by God along with us, to inhabit the same unique Earth that does not bear fragmentation… There are things called negotiation, agreement, constitution, protection of local characteristics… Rational people see many solutions. But ignorant people are never satisfied. They are rushing towards catastrophe, driving other people with them, and finally the whole country – nothing is stopping them.

Obviously, the plot exists, and even several of them. But our salvation will not come from sliding into the mentality of plots. On the contrary, it will come by seeking cooperation with every free human of good will, in the region and in the world. This can occur only with a true and sincere opening to Arabic and international media, in all their diversity. Because truth arises from media pluralism and independence. We also suggest cooperation with independent humanitarian organizations such as the Red Croos / Red Crescent, in order to assist the Syrian people in stopping armed clashes and protect unarmed civilians.

Dear Christians, the third point comes from the manifesto and teachings of the Oriental Patriarchs, and from the commandments of the Bishops’ Synod for the Middle-East, held under the Pope’s direction in 2010. It tells that our existence, side by side with the Muslims in harmony and appreciation, is a situation that God wants, a situation that concerns both History and Destiny. This is our country, undoubtedly since a long time, two thousand years at least. And this country is also common to us and the Muslims, since fourteen centuries. It is time for us to break free of our fears and prejudices against the participation of Muslims in the political movement. Of course, there are reasons for worries, such as extremism or recourse to violence. However, many among us simply seem unable to imagine a political regime based on the majority of the citizens, because they consider this majority as immature, as unable to figure out the interest of the country. The solution should be searched in negotiation, rather than in marginalization.

Unfortunately, many brothers and sisters in our communities have chosen, and continue to choose, emigration. Causes are understandable and often reasonable. But the baby in the manger calls us to more efforts at the service of peace and harmony in Syria. He is the one sending us a new hope, an unspeakable consolation that is healing our wounded hearts and making us more committed in striving for reconciliation, everywhere and at any cost.

At the occasion of the birth of this miraculous child, the prince of peace, our hearts want to express solidarity and communion in sadness with all families who have lost a member in those tragic events. We ask consolation for the families of the detained, of the disappeared, of the injured, of the combatants, and we pray for those who live through hunger and cold, for those who are exposed to danger, to revenge… We ask light for those in charge, in each of the parties and belongings in conflict, so that they choose honestly the way of reconciliation. For, there is no justice  without forgiveness.


Father Paolo Dall’Oglio