Jesuits: Dialogue Needed to Achieve Unity in Syria

Anti-Regime Protests Have Left 1,200 Dead Since March

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DAMASCUS, JUNE 6, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Jesuits in Syria are calling for dialogue and national unity in the face of a bloody crackdown by government forces on protesters who have been calling for the end of President Bashar al-Assad's rule since mid-March.

Last week in Damascus the Jesuit community gathered to pray and meditate on recent events, which have left some 1,200 dead, including 77 children. The situation began to escalate Monday when Syrian authorities claimed that some 120 military personnel were killed in the northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughour by "armed gangs," claims that have yet to be verified by eyewitness accounts.

"Given the gravity of the situation, on behalf of all those who have shed blood," the priests said in a statement sent to ZENIT, "we implore Syrians on all sides to mobilize urgently to build a sincere national dialogue in order to find a solution to this crisis."

"We, Christians, consider national unity as the guarantee of our very existence, and the loss of this unity as a threat of disappearance, hardening and collapse," the priests added. "That is why we wish to undertake a function that will enable us to reinforce national unity, reactivating the values that are essential in keeping with our point of view."

With regard to dialogue, the Jesuits said that it must be "sincere" and "moderate," and that each one must take the ideas of the other into consideration. They also invited everyone to reject violence, and especially urged armed military and police personnel to fully respect the dignity of every person.

"Every believer must be, in all realms of his social life, both in the family as well as on the street or at work, an effective element in the realization of national unity," the text added. "He cannot take refuge in a negative neutrality, but must be an instrument of peace."

Arab countries

The Jesuits stated that "arising in our country for some months, as in the majority of Arab countries, are efforts toward the reform of political and social structures," which they said "seek to strengthen the state and consciences of citizens with regard to individual liberties."

The original text, written in Arabic, pointed out that "those claims are a legitimate and recognized right for all, which enable every citizen to be an actor in the transformation of society."

For the Jesuits, "the changes at work in the Arab world and the present confusion they have caused in Syrian society are bearers of a new hope that must be taken into consideration."

"Unfortunately," they continued, "confusion has become the owner of the situation, opening the way to violence. We observe at this moment attempts to foment the disturbances and the religious war which would lead to the disintegration of our society."

The Jesuits in Syria recalled that "the history of our country has been distinguished for the spirit of hospitality and openness to the other, whoever he is."

The Gospel, the Way

They also reminded that "these difficult circumstances do not constitute the first crisis that our people are living, and despite it and in every crisis, we have found in the Gospel the way to follow."

"The Gospel calls us to give witness in the heart of our world, to reinforce the dialogue with everyone and to promote justice for all. That is why we now feel called to express our total support to this homeland and its people," they said. "We share with all of them the heritage of the noble Arab civilization and the same concern for national unity and the same respect for all."

The document affirmed that "real national peace cannot be built through the rejection of one part of the population by the other."

Last May 15, after praying the Regina Caeli, the Pope addressed a special thought to Syria, "where it is urgent to re-establish coexistence based on concord and unity."

On that occasion, Benedict XVI added: "I pray to God that there be no more shedding of blood in that homeland of great religions and civilizations, and I invite the authorities and all the citizens to spare no effort in the quest for the common good and in the acceptance of the legitimate aspirations for a future of peace and stability."

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-32787?l=english