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Archbishop Lahham : “The Syrian refugees feel visited”

Archbishop Lahham : “The Syrian refugees feel visited”

Mgr-LahhamJordan – A delegation of ten French  representatives of humanitarian organizations, and Christian and Muslim leaders visited Jordan on Sunday, October 6, to meet some of the 1.2 million Syrian refugees.  Below is the text of an interview with Archbishop Maroun Lahham, Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan with the French daily La Croix: 

La Croix (LC): What is your understanding of a visit of an interfaith delegation from France, with a message of peace and solidarity, at a time when the Middle East continues to live and endure the shockwave of the Syrian conflict ?

Archbishop Lahham (AL): It is always positive for families who are suffering to see that they are not forgotten and feel they are supported.  Nobody is expecting a miracle, but at least in an evangelical sense, the refugees feel “visited.” The fact that the group includes Christians and Muslims has a strong resonance for our Arab countries.  To my knowledge, this is the first time since the beginning of the Syrian conflict that such a delegation comes to visit the Syrian refugees. It is morally encouraging.

LC: Do you fear the mass departure of  Christians from Syria, as we have seen them flee Iraq in the same manner in recent years?

AL: Fears, yes of course.  But it is necessary to repeat that: “If Christians are suffering and they may sometimes die, it is primarily because they are Syrians.  Early in the conflict, they have suffered in the same way as Muslims.  Everyone is affected, that, we must not forget. The arrival of fundamentalist movements worsened their difficulties and enormously weakened their presence and is still happening today, they are being targeted because of their Christian affiliation.

LC: Do you not see the early signs of an Iraqi-related scenario ?

AL: There is no comparison between the two situations.  The war in Iraq was not internal.  It was a conflict from outside, one based on a lie by the Americans who wanted to destroy Iraq.  In Syria, the heart of the war is a population that can no longer bear the tyranny of a president.

The entry of Islamist movements and Western powers has complicated the situation.  Yes we are afraid.  Yes, the extremists can make themselves heard.  Their omnipresence, is it enough to conclude that they represent the will of the majority?  I do not think so.  Even if the Assad regime falls, I doubt that an Islamist government could succeed him.  Their failure in Egypt and in Tunisia are clear lessons that we can learn from: the Islamists are not capable of governing.  Despite efficient social programs,  economic and political strength and competence are weak.

LC: What issues of coexistence in the Arab World would concern the West, especially France ?

AL: The West is concerned about the future of the East, and vice versa.  The major difference between the plurality in the Arab and Western world, is that here, Christians are all natives of the country.  They are Jordanians, Syrians, Palestinians.   In Europe, the majority of Muslims, even if they are naturalized and although are born there, they originally are from other countries to which they remain culturally attached.  However, I remain convinced that these are the Muslims in Europe who can allow Islam to integrate a pluralist notion.

The minority experience leads us to recognize ourselves one among others.  However, this sense of minority does not exist in the Muslim Arab majority societies in  the Middle East.  I hope that France, with its opening, can provide an opportunity for European Islam to develop as a minority and be opened to ‘otherness.’  Europe can contribute to the opening of Islam to modernity.

LC: At the time of the assumption of a new international summit on Syria seems uncertain, what message would you want to convey to the West?

AL: I would say frankly: think of the good of the Syrian people and not your political and economical interests.  The important thing is not to side with one or the other, but to help each other to reach a solution that would save and allow Syria to stop and end the  killings.  Forget about your military bases, your economical interests.  Forget about your strategies, and pray for peace.

Compiled by François-Xavier Maigre (in Amman)

Source : La Croix