SYRIA – Vicar of Aleppo: “Encyclical ‘Fratelli tutti’ recounts the suffering of our people”
For Msgr. Abou Khazen the document is an act in defence of a people “wounded and attacked by thieves on the way to Jericho”. Syria is also waiting for a Good Samaritan “to save us”. But the West in recent years has betrayed hopes. A text “to be explored even in the Muslim world” and which should “inspire” the powerful of the earth and their actions.
The recently released papal encyclical Fratelli Tutti “seems written especially for our people who continue to suffer from endless sanctions and now also the Caesar Act“. It is also an act “in defense of all peoples who live in the same situation as us. If we put his teaching into practice, the world would be far better,” observes the Apostolic vicar of the Latins, Msgr. Georges Abou Khazen.
The prelate also ties the encyclical to the document signed in Abu Dhabi in February 2019 with the imam of al-Azhar. “We feel close to this wounded person, attacked by thieves on the road to Jericho, and we await the arrival of a Good Samaritan who will save us”.
For Msgr. Abou Khazen the reference “to the document signed with Ahmad al-Ṭayyib” is important, because if applied it “offers many solutions” to current problems, not only in the context of Islamic-Christian relations.
“Unfortunately – he continues – and this is also and above all true for Syria, instead of meeting a Good Samaritan on our path we ran into more thieves, priests and Levites who pass by and look the other way, pretending not to see so as not to be contaminated”.
The vicar of Aleppo hopes that the text will be disseminated and deepened also in the Muslim world, so it may “be welcomed and that it’s message reaches them too”. However, the problem remains of promoting a document in a reality of extreme need and daily suffering:
“We ourselves – he explains – at the Church level will find it difficult to explain to our faithful, who spend hours and hours every day queueing for a piece of bread, a maximum of 40 liters of petrol or diesel to heat their homes. It is the Syrians themselves who say that what the pope preaches in his encyclical is not being put into practice”.
“To the faithful and to all the people who are waiting for the Good Samaritan – says the prelate – I try to explain that Christianity should not be identified with the West, that politics [of Europe and the United States] is separate from faith. Of course, in recent years we have rarely seen a Good Samaritan arrive from the West, but we always hope that there are people of good will who really want to come to the aid of our country “.
The encyclical also touches “a very important point: the rights and dignity of man, which is often not taken into due account when it comes to Syrian events and this is very serious”. To this is added “mercy, which is the best medicine to cure our sufferings”.
“This document – observes Msgr. Abou Khazen – is the best cure for our problems, especially when it refers to integral development that affects the economic, cultural and social spheres. These are elements that must be defended and valued “, countering those who” come to our land to rob it of its wealth or destroy it, as has been happening in recent days with the devastation of the forest and olive trees caused by fires “.
The task of Christians, concludes the prelate, is to “deepen as much as possible and make this encyclical known, translating what the pontiff writes into concrete actions. This is the main difficulty, this is the real challenge that we all have to face, especially we Christians in our relationship with Muslims. This is a providential text, but only if it does not remain a dead letter but is also made in practice to settle international problems and disputes … we hope that the powerful of the earth will draw inspiration from it!”.