A friend who worries deeply about the Eastern Catholic Church e-mailed along this “latest Judeophobic calumny propagated by our clueless prelates in the Middle East”: According to the Daily Star, an English-language paper for Lebanese expats, the patriarch of the Antioch Church (Melkite Greek), Gregory III Laham, announced that there was a “Zionist conspiracy against Islam” behind al-Qaeda’s attack last month at a Catholic church in Baghdad. (Remember? The one where 58 innocent parishioners were slaughtered.)
Say what, Patriarch?! Concerning the “violence and disturbances against Christians here and there and on an increasing level,” well, don’t blame Osama bin Laden or the Taliban. “All this behavior has nothing to do with Islam,” says the Damascus-based Gregory. Instead, it is “a conspiracy planned by Zionism and some Christians with Zionist orientations and it aims at undermining and giving a bad image of Islam.”
Sidon’s (Melkite) Greek Catholic Archdiocese was inaugurated over the weekend along with a center for Islamic and Christian studies, with speakers at the ceremony calling for dialogue of religions and emphasizing coexistence.
A number of religious figures, politicians and businessmen took part in opening the archdiocese which saw a number of refurbishments.
Gregory III Lahham, the patriarch of the Church of Antioch and the entire Levant for Melkite Greek Catholics, participated in the ceremony that took place under his patronage.
Attendees gathered at Saint Nicholas Cathedral inside the archdiocesan headquarters.
Lahham said that attacks against Levantine Christians reflected a “Zionist conspiracy against Islam.”
“I believe it is necessary to deeply examine fundamentalism … and terrorism that are masked by religion, along with violence and disturbances against Christians here and there and on an increasing level. All this behavior has nothing to do with Islam,” Lahham said.
“But it is actually a conspiracy planned by Zionism and some Christians with Zionist orientations and it aims at undermining and giving a bad image of Islam,” he added.
Gunmen from the Islamic State of Iraq — an Al-Qaeda affiliated organization — stormed Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Church during Sunday Mass on November 1. More than 50 people were killed during an attempted hostage-rescue operation and doubts escalated over the future of the country’s Christians.
“And it is also a conspiracy against Arabs and the pre-dominantly Muslim Arab world that aims at depicting Arabs and Muslims in Arab countries as terrorist and fundamentalist murderers in order to deny them their rights and especially those of the Palestinians,” Lahham said.
The prelate said dialogue between Muslims and Christians was the best means to confront such a conspiracy.
“Dialogue, Islamic-Christian dialogue centers along with coexistence and solidarity here in Lebanon and in Arab countries represent the actual response to this conspiracy which targets us as Muslims and Christians and threatens our countries and generations,” Lahham said.