Syria.. Home Of Religions And Civilizations

Dialogue and interaction between religions and civilizations is one of the most prominent topics under scrutiny by the elite intellectuals and politicians in the western, eastern and Islamic societies. Civilizations, are open by nature. They influence the others and are influenced by them. History never witnessed a closed civilization, because closure is against the nature of civilizations. Proponents of the dialogue between civilizations excerpt from the words of the German scholar Hans Young: "There will be no peace among nations without peace among religions, and there will be no peace among religions without a dialogue between religions, and dialogue will not be constructive unless it is political, civilized and far from the trap of the ecclesiastical religious dialogue.

The delegation of the US Cultural Center for the dialogue of civilizations headed by Dr. Thomson Beerack, during meeting Moslem clergies in "Kaftaro Islamic Institute", praised the values of social coexistence between all the communities of Syrian society, and highly estimated the role of Islamic institutions and their support for mediacy and constructive dialogue.

The delegation asserted the necessity of sustainable contact among nations in order to make use of the advantages and privileges of coexistence in Syrian society. For his part, Dr Kaftaro, head of the Islamic Institute, asserted the national role of Syrian churches and their alliance with mosques, and that mediacy and moderation are the slogans of faithful and secular Syrians, and this in itself, is an important factor of tourist attraction to Syria where tourists of all faiths and beliefs find the peace and serenity of spiritual allegiance to the same God.

The visit of his eminence Pope John Paul II in 2001 to Syria is another evidence of tolerance in the Syrian society. In his sermon in St. Peter's square in Rome, the pope said to a congregation of tens of thousands: "I thank president Bashar alAssad and all those who received me with love and cordiality. I also thank his eminence the Mufti of the Syrian Arab Republic for escorting me to the Grand Mosqueof the Umayyads". Reciprocating visits between Christian and Moslem clergies in religious events and feasts confirm the strong relation between religions in Syria, where all people, of different faiths, concur on the common destiny, on moral values, and on serving the country. Both Moslems and Christians respect and sanctify places of worship where they resort to God the almighty, and meet their brethrens in wedding parties, in condolences, and in social events, taking into account that the Holy Quran highly respects Jesus Christ and his mother, Mary the Virgin, exactly like they are sanctified in the Bible.

President Bashar alAssad reminded us that Syria was the launching point of Christianity and Islam when he said: "Christianity and Islam rose in our land, and this is a source of pride to us and to our people. European invaders tried to embarrass Arab Christians by putting them in front of two choices: either join the invaders out of their loyalty to their faith, or ally with their Arab nationals out of their national belonging. They chose to stand with their country, their originality and loyalty to Arabism".

No place on earth represents history, heritage and civilizations as the Umayyad mosque, which was a pagan temple, and when Christianity became the official faith of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, part of the temple was transformed to the cathedral of St. John. And when Arabs conquered Damascus in 639 AD, the other part of the temple was changed into a mosque, and Christians and Moslems used the same gates to get to their worship places inside the temple. Greek inscriptions on the main entrance, and the mausoleum of St. John preserved in the center of the prayer hall of the mosque, are solid evidences of the tolerance and coexistence in Syria.

Syria assimilated various religions and consecutive civilizations to become a unique example of multiplicity in the world, a fact which indicates that the character of Syrian man is the logical output of free interaction between consecutive cultures. This character feeds the world from the pond of time, which is supplied by many streams and currents of thought. This character made Syria a brilliant jewel studding the attire of the universe, granted Syria all the elements of attracting tourists: glorious past, secure present, beautiful nature, and moderate weather. It is enough to have a glimpse at any street in Syria to realize how contrasts enjoy full respect. Veiled women are escorted by none veiled ones. Some restaurants offer spirits, others do not. Universities receive young students of different ethnicities and religions.

Christian and Moslem choirs jointly chant biblical and Islamic hymns glorifying God the Almighty. Syria, which bred man since his first steps on earth, will always open its arms wide for all human beings to give them love, compassion, and security. Damascus was always an example of tolerance, coexistence and interactive dialogue, and will in the future enjoy peace, prosperity and well being.

Haifaa Mafalani