Monthly Archives

September 2001

2001, An-Nahar, Articles

Americans: Judges of the earth? / 22.09.2001

We were among those who sincerely mourned the thousands of victims that felled on the 11th of September, an absurd death, similar to the daily death of Iraqi children. This death comes as a result of abhorrence to the “Absolute Giant”, and paid its consequence those innocents living in the Giant’s land. This absurd death saddened me, and soon turned to become an alarming fear for the fate of threatened family members and friends living there. I prayed that a death like this might die forever. Mayhap America can now dream of a new life for its own and for others too.

Since I wrote this article and meanwhile it will be published, this nation might choose to go the way of vengeance. If it were proven, that vengeance could stop violence, then, this should have been obvious since Cain killed his brother in the beginning of history. Collective death could result, since it shall be almost impossible for the US to arrest the perpetrator, in that thousands of innocents could soon be exterminated, to say what? And if the regime, where the perpetrator is hiding, is found to be responsible for hosting him, can the US annihilate the people of that hosting country; does America want to do that? Is it possible for a great nation, a nation absolute in its greatness, to avenge, in its bitterness, by wiping innocent peoples? Is this a justice or a reaction? Isn’t this same reaction that is generating the forces of revolt in the weakened nations – who will try some day to break their way out of their miserable situation through what is called terrorism – trying to avenge their wounded dignity? Is a dialogue still possible between the strong and the miserable of the earth? Who did arm, in the first place, those miserable that the US is going to annihilate? Does the destruction of the poor produce peace?

It seems now that the “Clash of civilizations”, as depicted by Samuel Huntington, is underway. The problem of such terminology is that, that terrorism is not restricted to one civilization: it was German, Japanese, and for a period of time American (within America itself), Muslims then, do not monopolize terrorism. But why the US is not asking itself for the reasons that pushed those miserable to what it identifies as terrorism? Aren’t prejudice, depravedness, and political oppression behind these actions, even though wars have become impossible between the earth’s nations? Since the little aspire to be liberated from dominion, and since their means of liberty are in the hands of the big, why then doesn’t these strong hands stretch out for sincere cooperation and help, free from all forms of humiliation, until the groan of the miserable is appeased?

America may lead an overwhelming campaign for a while, but how can it eradicate the spots of terrorism all over the planet? Will it strike all nations it categorized as exporters of terrorism? Will it not consider that these same nations will come out again from the rubbles, their greave multiplied and their hatred concentrated, re-entering in a vicious and diabolical unbreakable cycle of violence?

And if “terrorism”, “Arabs”, and “Muslims” have become synonyms in western mind, aren’t we re-entering a renewed and endless Crusade, based upon two fairytales? First, that the West is Christian, and second, that Islam, in its essence, is exporter of war and terror. Will not this lead to the belief, among Muslim groups, that Christians (wherever they might reside) are allies of the west and therefore friends of the state of Israel? Political and cultural Islam must stand on its feet through understanding, creativity and prosperity in all their aspects, in order to eliminate the danger of Crusades; because its continuing path, of poverty and feebleness, is triggering its counter-Crusade path or Jihad in Muslim terminology, and of which, Islam is not capable. And if Islam was humiliated beyond reason, it will be pressed to suicidal stands, which, in its own terminology, is called martyrdom. In front of such a predictable madness, the West may prove to be fragile and impatient, contrary to Islam, and this Crusade will soon abolish itself in the same manner the Crusades of the Middle Ages were overthrown from our countries. The Western European alliance with the US, in addition to Russia, is enough to permanently convince all Muslims (not only conservatives) that Christianity, in its essence, is enemy of Islam and opposed to the freedom of Moslem nations, then we shall witness a renewed colonialism, even after that the forms of the old one have vanished.

Before World War Two, we believed, in a way or another, in the missionary role of the US calling for freedom and democracy. This picture has been shaken a lot, and possibly terminally, in Palestine, Africa and former Yugoslavia—we now witness the nations of Lincoln and Yeltsin employing Realpolitik—not shying from disclosing that they look after their foreign interests and, consequently, they enter this or that conflict accordingly. The scale of justice is no longer supported and even this doesn’t need to be proved in historical Palestine. Will the US feel that it is called to change its stand, after the last tragedy, to become anew a judge not a party in the conflict? Will not this make of it stronger and more respectable and a hope for the nations of the earth?

This “burst of vengeance” may be excused if it is limited in space, this may limit some terrorists for a while. But anger shouldn’t last, because, in a later stage, it consumes itself. For America’s sake, I think it better looks to conclude a new era of world peace. The truly great nation can conclude such peace, through justice and help.

Perhaps, the American behavior in the world is inspired by the second verse of the 26th chapter of Isaiah, as inscribed on the entrance of Harvard University: “Open the gates, that the righteous nation… may enter in”, but the full verse continues: “which keeps the truth”. America is convinced that it holds the “truth”, or what it claims to be its truth, enabling it to enter the gates of knowledge to rule the world. I even remember that President Clinton stating something in this context. Power facilitates such a rule, with or without truth. It is obvious that the founding fathers [of America] believed that the New World, which they immigrated to, is their second Promised Land, a land of blessings; and most Americans today, still believe, that financial riches are divine blessings.

It is not evident that American rulers have read the gospel, which strictly cautions against mammon and foremost against dominion. Most assuredly, typical Americans did not read ascetic literature, which cautions us from monopolizing wealth. Which leads us to the American world philosophy: “if a powerful authority can be successfully overlaid in an American context, why can’t this authority, be overlaid in a worldwide context? All sorts of protest and revolution can be subdued through pro-US regimes, who benefit originally from oppressing their own peoples and who continue exiting through American supportive politics.”

But one must read history and learn how kingdoms have felled: “Say: O Allah, Master of the Kingdom! Thou givest the kingdom to whomsoever Thou pleasest and takest away the kingdom from whomsoever Thou pleasest, and Thou exaltest whom Thou pleasest and abasest whom Thou pleasest in Thine hand is the good; surety, Thou hast power over all things” (The Family of Imran verse 26). It seems Americans didn’t read the Koran verse. But they must have read the psalms: “Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth” (Ps 2:10). The problem is that Americans have set themselves “judges of the earth”, establishing their own custom justice, not the_Justice, whenever they wanted and referring solely to themselves. The missionary days of President Roosevelt are gone when Americans believed they needed to establish a United Nations organization, responsible for achieving world justice, until, they discovered they can do without it whenever it was necessary; Moreover, they also decided that Israel can dismiss all UN resolutions, because Israel too, has set itself, or was appointed by the Americans, “judge of the Middle East”.

I beseech God, for the US to continue prospering in wealth, science and technology which it promotes, and for God to lead it to the true path of meekness, in which it may discover that no one has appointed it “judge of the earth”. Mayhap this terrible catastrophe, which hurt us as well, inspires it the wisdom of modesty, and mayhap it commences counting itself along the same line of other nations, without haughtiness, and may it start restraining from punishing others, lest punishment may fell upon it.

May America keep its wealth and may God increase its riches, but may it never become prideful. May it prosper and may we prosper too, which requires from it a great deal of self-restraint while employing its power. No one is expecting the US to become a charitable organization, but we expect from it not to underestimate our right to existence and that, we too, have the right to live. We don’t want to humiliate the US, because this is called hatred, but what benefit the US shall gain if it “shall gain the whole world, and lose its own soul?”

If on the contrary, America begins employing all its might in the service of the miserable of the earth, terrorism shall vanish and, God grant, love shall reign.

Translated by Father Symeon AbouHaidar

Original Text: “الأميركيون قضاة الأرض؟ ” – 22.09.2001

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2001, Articles, Raiati

Pastoral Words / 09.09.2001

Some traditions have emerged in our Church which I haven’t seen in the Orthodox world such us having Baptisms and weddings at monasteries. The monastery is not a place for weddings because the people that live there are people who don’t get married and it is not desirable for them to see weddings where they live. Our old canon laws also state that baptisms must happen at the Church of the parish and not at other Churches.

The importance of Baptizing at the parish Church is that the baptized child is received as a member in his parish. This is why baptisms used to be held during the Divine Liturgy and people didn’t send invitations for baptisms because the entire parish would gather and receive the child and make him a member in it. However, today, whether held at the monastery or the local Church or the cathedral, parents are inviting their relatives and friends although baptism is an act of the community and isn’t only related to the family.

We have done this experience and tried baptism during the Liturgy according to an order that already existed. We also tried the wedding during the Liturgy where the wedding prayers and the liturgy prayers intersect and connect with each other. You should get married in your community and not leave the Church of your parish.

Today, we notice that most people do not pray during weddings. Fashionable clothes are exposed in an obscene way and there is no more sanctity for the temple. People are occupied with other people and don’t seem occupied by the divine words. The sanctity of marriage is violated by obscenity.

People say that they want to get married or baptize their son at a monastery because this is a vow. Why did you take this vow? All of this comes from the spirit of individualism while our spirit must be communal. The Church in our archdiocese is the Church of your village. In this Church you are spiritually born and raised and in it the joy of your marriage must be fulfilled and in it is where it should be prayed over your corpse and next to it is where you should be buried.

Many vows are wrong because they have no basis in our canon law. One of these vows is to buy a drawing or a chandelier and impose it on those who are responsible of Church property. This drawing might not be an Orthodox icon and you would feel sad because we were obliged to refuse it. You must donate an amount of money to the Church and those who are responsible would buy what they are in need of.

I thank God because our believers started to understand this and we have applied it in the mount region where people were displaced (from their villages); there, when someone comes to help, he doesn’t impose his name to be written (on what he has donated). When a person gives, he would be giving God; he shouldn’t be seeking to carve his name on an icon or a tile. If you were charitable, the Lord will register your name in the book of life.

Another important thing is that people spend too much on their weddings while people are starving to death. In the midst of the hardship that we are passing through today, spending this much on banquets and receptions is obscene. The bride and groom must have the courage to spend small amounts of money. The bliss of the bride and groom starts with their love for the poor.

It hurts me that people who want to baptize or get married are exaggerating in spending starting from the invitation cards that have become more expensive than they should be. The wedding could go along with humbleness and modesty. Priests are hurt in occasions when people spend very little over them in comparison to what they spend over the “cocktail party”. Money is wasted over pleasures and worthless glory and not even a little is given to charity or to become closer to God.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “أقوال رعائية” –Raiati no36- 09.09.2001

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2001, Articles, Raiati

The Sustenance of the Priest / 02.09.2001

The question isn’t “How does the priest live?” but rather “Does the parish love him enough to spare him the need to search for his living?” The Scripture says: “Who tends a flock and does not drink the milk?” (Apostle Paul). What milk is this? Paul himself says: “If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?” and by this he means the means of living.

The idea is based on the Canon Law that doesn’t want the priest to search for his sources of sustenance in order to be dedicated to teaching, service and visits. Paul’s thought is that the believer that takes the spiritual giving of his pastor helps the latter to have a decent living. If he was stingy towards him, he will make him busy in money and corrupt.

If spiritual service was the most important thing for us, then the priority of spending is for the priest. He shouldn’t be given a minimum wage under the excuse of building or renovating a church. It is very clear that the priest’s decent living is more important than the physical church because this is the human church. Church councils have continuous projects in some places and restoring churches requires a lot of time. Meanwhile, how do this man and his family eat? I don’t know any family that reduces its kids’ food and their school fees and medication in order to buy an apartment or build a place. Things that are stable for you, i.e. the priority of food over any other project, are also stable for the priest.

What sources of living does this man have? It has become known for us since the beginning of the twentieth century that the priest has a fixed monthly salary and that the faithful honor him when he does a spiritual service for them. However, our experience shows that the biggest part of his income must come from the salary. Sometimes the faithful give a small amount. The number of happy occasions and sorrow ones varies. They increase and decrease and their income doesn’t give comfort. Some parish councils have a very bad tendency to say: Our priest has this number of weddings and that number of baptisms in order to take off themselves the responsibility of giving generously. I am amazed by the behavior of some people that are stingy with money that is not theirs and don’t behave the same towards their families.

Very few are convinced that a priest that has two or three children has to spend exactly as any family that also has two or three children. A lot of people don’t think about that as if there is a tendency to put the priest under the guardianship of the people in control of the Church’s money. As if they are saying that he has to be in need in order to learn humility. Who said that he can’t be humble without being in need?

Then the last and major issue is that the final decision in determining the salary is taken by the bishop who is responsible for the churches’ properties, and the deputies of these properties are only consultants for the bishop. We have to get rid completely of the following kind of speech that insults the spiritual authority: This is the property of our fathers and ancestors. This is not true. They gave, but after their giving these properties became under the guardianship of the church and not the families.

I feel very sad when I face a speech like the following: This is our maximal ability. What does this mean when we have in every parish a bunch of rich people and money in the banks? They also say that we don’t collect a lot in church. Alright, but if 3 to 8% of the faithful attended the liturgy, does this mean that the priest must live from what is collected in the liturgy only and not from a certain system of subscriptions?

These broad lines of our behavior are the thing that pleases the Lord.

Translated by Mark Najjar

Original Text: “إعالة الكاهن” –Raiati 35- 02.09.2001

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