Catholicosate of Cilicia
Antelias - Lebanon
The Middle East has been the birth place of three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It has also been the homeland of so many cultures, ethnicities and civilizations. These diversities that have characterized the history of the region have often generated tensions, polarizations and conflicts. Religion sometime has been used for non-religious purposes. The affirmation of ethnicity has caused estrangement, and religious extremism has, in its turn, became a major factor in provoking persecution, massacres and wars.
A realistic assessment of the present landscape of the Middle East will not display a different image of the region. In fact, the forceful resurgence of religious extremism, the growing fear of disintegration, and the increasing penetration of global powers in the regional politics, and in addition to these major concerns, the question of refugees and internally displaced persons with their socio-economic implications have furthered destabilized the region. Hence, one may safely assert that the Middle East is actually at the most crucial juncture of its modern history.
As religious and political leaders we have a common role to play. We are challenged to be proactive. Let me briefly identify five areas of common concern which require common action and firm commitment by religious leaders.-
1) Protecting life
Monotheistic religions believe that life both in its rational and non-rational expressions is given by God. Hence, life is sacred, human being has no right to misuse and abuse it, and to take one's life. Such an act is a sin against God. We must protect the sacredness, integrity and wholeness of life. This is a God-given vocation that must be realized with the sense of responsibility and accountability. We must promote a culture of life against culture of death.
2) Affirming diversity
Diversity is a God-given reality; it is a significant feature of creation and human life. Therefore, diversity is a source of enrichment and progress. We must enhance and safeguard the diversity. We must accept and respect the way we are. Diversity becomes a source of evil when it is transformed to adversity, intolerance and rejection of the other. We must accept the otherness of the other. Exclusive way of thinking and acting generates conflicts. We must develop inclusive and holistic approach in our teachings, practices and ways of life that embrace the wholeness of life in all its diversities. Living in pluralistic societies, we are called to transform our diversities to coherent and reconciled diversities, and co-existence to a community sustained by common values.
3) Rejecting extremism
Extremism is another form of evil. Religions have different self-understanding, self-realization and self-expressions. The monotheistic religions have common roots, common teachings and common values; at the same time they have different approaches and perspectives in respect to issues and challenges facing humanity. A religion may claim that it possesses the truth and hence affirm its legitimacy. But it has no right to impose its values on the others, exploit the religious beliefs for ideological and political ends, and even kill people in the name of God. Any religion will never accept such an evil practice. Therefore, we must join our forces to reject extremism in all its dimensions and manifestations that strongly impact the modern societies. We must promote a culture of tolerance, mutual respect and peaceful co-habitation.
4) Overcoming violence
Violence in all its forms and expressions has become a dominant feature of contemporary societies. It impacts all spheres and layers of community. In becoming a global evil, violence has taken on a new dimension and urgency. Violence is also built into systems of governance and has become integral to various structures and ideologies, policies and practices as an instrument to maintain privilege and control. This culture of violence dehumanizes people, shakes the very foundation of a society and destroys the creation. We can overcome this life-threatening evil by community building. We are bound to each other within a community. We are responsible for and accountable to each other. Living as a community will keep away all sorts of violence. We can overcome this global evil also through education. Family and school play a crucial role in moral formation. Therefore religions and governments should make education a top priority.
5) Striving for peace with justice
Peace is not the absence of war; it is essentially the harmonious relations, creative interaction, mutual understanding and respect based on common values, principles and aspirations. Peace is above all a common life sustained and protected by justice. Wherever rights are smashed by might, wherever equality is ignored and participation is neglected, peace becomes shaky. According to the teachings of monotheistic religions, peace is a gift of God. We must safeguard it with care and responsibility; we must work for it by promoting justice. This is, indeed, our common calling
CATHOLICOS OF CILICIA
29 October 2017