Beyond dhimmitude. Startling statements from Gregory III Laham, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and All the East. In the rest of the interview, he calls for peaceful coexistence — a situation that can only be willed by both sides, not just one. From an interview entitled “We Are the Church of Islam” in 30 Days, with thanks to DFS:
Your speech to the Synod was exceptional. You spoke on behalf of the Â«Church of the ArabsÂ».
GRÃ‰GOIRE III LAHAM: The Melchite bishop Edelby, who was a leading figure at the Vatican II Council, would always repeat: we are Arabs not Moslems, Eastern not Orthodox, Catholics not Latins. I add: we are the Church of Islam.
That’s the same expression you used in your speech. Did you want to scandalize someone?
GRÃ‰GOIRE III: Islam is our milieu, the context in which we live and with which we are historically associated. We have lived 1,400 years in the middle of them. We understand Islam from the inside. When I hear a verse of the Koran, it’s not something foreign to me. It’s an expression of the civilization to which I belong.
Why did you bring it up at a Synod on the Eucharist?
GRÃ‰GOIRE III: According to me, after 11 September, there is a plot to eliminate all the Christian minorities from the Arabic world.
GRÃ‰GOIRE III: Our simple existence ruins the equations whereby Arabs can’t be other than Moslems, and Christians but be westerners.
And who is that supposed to worry?
GRÃ‰GOIRE III: If the Chaldeans, the Assyrians, the Orthodox, the Latin Catholics leave, if the Middle East is cleansed of all the Arabic Christians, the Moslem Arab world and a so-called Christian Western world will be left face to face. It will be easier to provoke a clash and justify it with religion. That is why I wrote a letter in July to all the Arab rulers, to explain how important it is that this small presence, 15 million Arab Christian scattered among 260 million Moslems, not be swept away.