To the dear Muslim brothers and friends
From your Christian brother, Bishop Atallah Hanna,
From Jerusalem, the heart of the Christian and Muslim worlds.
Greeting and blessing and God have mercy on us all.
We all heard what happened when some Muslims attacked some Christians in Egypt on Christmas day, after people finished their prayers filled with holiday joy and grace. They are all from Egypt, a land that is a mother to both Muslims and Christians. This attack on Christmas day, resulted in the death of 6 Christians and 1 Muslim, turning a joyous and blessed day to a sad day filled with grief and death between Muslim and Christian brothers.
On this occasion, I address my Muslim friends and brothers to think about some matters that will help prepare a better future for all the children of a united Arab family, in order to prevent sectarian incidents that occur from time to time in the Arab world, with its Muslim majority, and a Christian minority which among themselves, keep reminding each other of a united Arab nation, and the different religious and civilized stages that the nation has been undergoing.
My message is that we must seek together a serious effort to create a new generation of Muslims and Christians who know they are the sons of one homeland, who hold the same message in building a nation filled with peace and prosperity and love.
I know of some Islamic currents that oppose the various growing types of modern colonialism that target us all, Christians and Muslims. Some Muslims have become confused between their Christian brothers in the homeland and western colonialists, because some, not all, of these invaders or colonialists, are Christians. In fact colonialist policies now are free from the spirit of Christianity, and are actually policies that both Christians and Muslims are its victims of.
With respect to all people in the world, east and west, there must be a distinction between an abusive colonialist and a true believer in his faith and God, who celebrated his religious holidays with joy and happiness.
We should consciously support any efforts to resist every type of modern colonialism, united and not through strife (Fitnah). Some of this “Fitnah” might have come as a natural way throughout history and resided in some families and tribes. Yet, some are unnatural and become deliberate movements that operate either out of ignorance and lack of cultural openness, or through precise awareness of trying to further segregate the people causing further destruction in the Arab countries.
Yes we have heard many opinions in the media condemning what had happened, as well as giving advise and guidance. But what we truly need is more media that explicitly analyzes sectarian incidents like this, one that calls for the need of a new Muslim-Christian education that is based on respecting one another.
An education that frankly says that religion does not tolerate any sectarian attacks and forbids viewing a person of a different faith as an enemy or somebody who is less.
The relationship between Islam and Christianity in the Arab Middle East has matured over the centuries due to a long shared history. We should stay united over this heritage that remains till this day a source of renewed life in our daily lives and not let it be the source of death that destroys our history, our humanity, and our nation.
I ask God to help us with this common endeavor to make our countries a place of faith and sincere prayer to the Almighty, where all will be equal and all living in blessing.
Christians are a big part of the Arab nation and heritage and are not remnants of any kind of colonialism. Our churches are the property of the entire nation and an assault on it is an assault on all of the people, and an assault on the Islamic holy places is an attack on us all also. Beware of those who stir up seditions, and let us face this cause of great suffering with more unity and rejection of extremism and sectarianism.
Bishop Atallah Hanna
Archbishop of The Greek Orthodox Church