I Hate My Country…

sometimes. We can be a very selfish people, self-centered, greedy, and given to violence. Often we seem like a culture with only goods and services and no soul, no heart, and nothing beyond the next gadget to buy. We can be promiscuous and vile, indulgent to our every whim as if it were the entire definition of our existence, and every feeling has become, for us, an ultimate truth to be defended at all costs.

I love my country…

because there is amazing beauty here, everything from the arctic to the tropical in one country. There is goodness here, as well, and if you understand that the movies, the TV, and the news aren’t documentaries so much as lurid attempts to get you to watch you’ll notice kindness, civility, charity, and friendliness in many places. We’re always among the most charitable nations on Earth and even though we could always do more we’re still moved by the poverty and tragedy of others. We forget them sometimes, but we really do have high ideals and there are very few countries that are as diverse of people, faith, and vision and yet have somehow still found a way to be together.

And because I love my country I recognize everything that’s wrong but still believe in what’s good and right and decent about us all. I enjoy traveling the world but this is home and I plan on fighting for the best of it, not with force or violence but by trying to be the best and most honorable person I can and by living my Faith to the greatest extent possible. I can’t control the past, but today, and the future, are surely something I can make better. And every time in the Liturgy when we pray for our nation, its leaders, the armed forces, every city and countryside and the faithful who dwell in them, I’ll mean it like I always have and perhaps even more.

For Your Information…

December 7, 2013

The President and Mrs. Obama; The White House; 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW; Washington D.C.  20500

Dear Mr. President and Mrs. Obama,

Greetings and best wishes to you and to your two precious daughters in the spirit of this Holy Christmas season. I was honored to receive your invitation to attend a White House holiday reception on Friday, December 6th, 2013.

I remember fondly my attendance at the White House reception two years ago. The photograph which we took together on that auspicious occasion continues to adorn my office. Unfortunately Mr. President, I did not attend your holiday reception this year because while I do have the joy of Christmas, I do not have the peace of Christmas. This is the peace which the angels proclaimed on that Holy Night “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14). Although I am Lebanese by birth and a proud American citizen for the past fifty-seven years, I received my secondary education in the cities of Homs and Damascus, Syria.

Mr. President I do not have the peace of Christmas because there is no peace either in Lebanon or in Syria. During the time which I spent in Syria as a student and secretary to the late Patriarch Alexandros Tahan, I ate the bread of Syria, I drank the water of Syria, I breathed the air of Syria and I enjoyed the most generous hospitality of the Syrian people.

No Mr. President, I do not have the peace of Christmas while two of my brother archibishops Boulos Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim are still in captivity in northern Syria with no news since their abduction. Actually Mr. President, we do not know whether they are alive or dead. Two weeks ago, Mr. President, twelve of our Orthodox nuns were abducted from the convent of St. Thekla of Maaloula, Syria. These nuns are innocent women who care for some orphans in the convent. These peaceful women do not have arms and do not fight but pray for peace every day and night. I contacted the State Department and spoke to Ambassador Ford who promised me that he is doing everything possible to gain the release of the two abducted Archbishops and the nuns, but to no avail.

Recently a video appeared on Al-Jazeera network which reportedly showed the nuns and the Abbess of the convent, Mother Pelagia in captivity, and she said that they were living in a villa. What a mockery! If the abductors wanted the nuns to escape the bombardment of Maaloula, they could have sent them to the Orthodox Patriarchate in Damascus, which can accommodate one hundred nuns. We know the truth Mr. President. The truth is that the video was made under extreme psychological pressure, which these nuns are enduring every day. There is every reason to fear for their safety.

Finally Mr. President, anything that you can do as the leader of the free world to stop the bloodshed and destruction in Syria will be very deeply appreciated. May the peace of Christmas which this broken world does not understand dwell in your hearts and in the hearts of your family forever.

Sincerely yours,

Metropolitan PHILIP  (Saliba)

Primate

The Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
of North America

A Plea…

So they believe they found chemical weapons in Syria and they believe that they were used by the government so I guess the best solution is to take a side in this civil war and add even more munitions and death into the mix. Plus we get the human and financial costs of potentially being in another limitless foreign war. I believe we can do better than this. I believe our foreign policy should be one of non intervention in the affairs of other nations except to provide completely humanitarian (non lethal) aid. I believe its time for the United States to end its role as the self appointed police force of the world. I believe the passion, expertise, and creativity of this country should be directed to bettering the human condition and not the production and distribution of weapons across the globe. I believe the best defense of this country is to use our immense resources for saving and not taking life. We need to change the world by being a beacon of hope and not simply the worlds largest purveyor of deadly force. We need to inspire rather than coerce. We need to serve rather than rule. We need to share hope and not just ammunition. Can this happen? Yes, when people begin to practice peace themselves and refuse to give their leaders a blank check when they keep asking us for our money and our sons and daughters for their grand illusions.

Some Thoughts…

I think it’s a good thing for observant Christians to ask questions of those in public office. The question is always a matter of style. Remember, we need to seek the salvation of every human, even those who would do us harm, and so our approach has to be towards that end. We can state our disagreements. We can argue for our cause. Yet we need to do so in a way that the person we are addressing sees Christ in us. This can be a challenging thing in these times, when everything, including the political discourse, seems crass and confrontational. Yet we as Christians, I believe, need to lead the country to better things and a Christian witness in the public discourse, both in style and substance, is a first step.

Yes…

What a strange culture we live in, in which people are expected to approve of everything those they love believe in and do, or be guilty of betraying that love. I have friends and family whose core beliefs on politics, sexuality, religion, etc., are not the same as my own, and it would not occur to me in the slightest to love them any less because of it. I hope it would not occur to them to love me any less because they don’t agree with me. People are somehow more than the sum of their beliefs and actions.

Read more here.

I Hate Writing…

about politics these days because so much of the news is dismal and my soul is darkened when I wallow in the controversies of the world. Yet when I do speak, because sometimes it is a necessity, I try to speak for freedom, for that which would be good, for solutions, and hopefully not for the degradation of any person. Of course I fail at this sometimes and when this happens I need to step back, calm my passions, and focus on the things and the One that really matters.

That’s what really counts. I will speak for human dignity and freedom. I will seek justice as best as I can understand it. I will do my best to not harm or belittle anyone along the way.  Yet above all I hope to keep myself on the Beautiful Path that is the Christian life and help any others who might like to come along. Beyond specific issues I believe this is the best way to make any society better, to help the transformation of people from within by the grace of God in Christ.

Princes, rulers, governments, they come and go and are never a place to store ultimate trust. God and the life that God offers are what lasts and remains. I will speak and write of many things but cling only to that.

 

This Statement…

is from a man (Metropolitan Paul) who has been kidnapped by terrorists in Syria and whose whereabouts are unknown. He was kidnapped with another Bishop and their driver was killed. Please pray for the Christians of the Middle East, especially Egypt and Syria. They are being subjected to daily harassment by either their governments or insurgents, both of whom receive US taxpayer funds in aid.

310073_10152802276400006_1123621166_n