The Dec. 15 conference was sponsored by Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, patriarch of the Greek Catholic Melkite Church. The conference was a follow-up to the synod on the Middle East held last October at the Vatican, and view as one of the first “visible fruits” of it.
Some 1,000 people participated — Christians and Muslims, representatives from Eastern Churches, and participants from Lebanon, Jordan and other Arab nations.
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan of Antioch explained that the conference was a “positive realization of what the holy synod in Rome called for, especially for Islam and Christianity and the issues of sharing land and country, and some ethics related to daily life.”
The patriarch emphasized that participants wanted to show the world that Syria’s president “asks that Muslims and Christians should live in peace together and should witness to their common life in Syria in peace to all humanity.”
“We are full of hope to cooperate with the grace of God more closely with our Muslim brothers and sisters in the future,” he added.
He said that the gathering in Damascus allowed Christians and Muslims to speak of common issues.
“The first and most important issue,” Patriarch Ignace Joseph III asserted, “is to condemn all terrorism, particularly terrorism in the name of a religion. And, secondly, I think that there is a need to review the religious speeches given by clerics — that they abide by spreading peace not hatred, to accept those different from us and to found dialogue and religious relations upon the common values of humanity we share.”
Patriarch Younan affirmed hopes that the future will bring further collaboration, “because there are more things that are uniting us than are separating us.”
The Syriac Catholic Church is one of the seven Eastern Churches “sui iuris” belonging to the Catholic Church, and hence in full communion with the Holy See in Rome. The liturgical tradition of the Syriac Catholic Church uses the language Christ spoke, which is Aramaic. The Syriac Catholic Church exists particularly in the Holy Land, in Iraq and Lebanon.
[Gabriela Maria Mihlig contributed to this report]