Speech of Patriarch John X On the 10th…

Speech of Patriarch John X
On the 10th anniversary of the founding of the University of Balamand Campus in Souk El Gharb
June 6, 2024
Dear attendees,
In the twilight of the 1980s, the Orthodox Church of Antioch wanted to have an institution that summarized some of its message. And so there was the University of Balamand, seated on the hill that overlooks Tripoli. That day, someone asked Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim: “Will you build a university while destruction surrounds Lebanon from all sides?” He retorted: “If some people are destined to destroy, then we are destined to build and survive.”
Ten years ago, in a region that was rumbling and bubbling, the Church of Antioch reaffirmed its role, and this branch saw the light in Souk El Gharb in collaboration with His Excellency Mr. Walid Bey Jumblatt, who donated the land. This branch was a continuation of a message that the Greek Orthodox Church from Balamand launched and wanted to diffuse to all regions and denominations of the Lebanese social fabric. Today, we came to reiterate and affirm that we are here to stay because we love this land, that we are imbued with the love of Lebanon, that we are molded by the majesty of its mountain that invokes the countenance of Him Who dwells in Heaven.
From Souq Al-Gharb, which was once, - it is hard for me to say it-, a borderline of war, we show ourselves today on this anniversary in the glow of encounter and convergence.
Today we come to tell the history of the University of Balamand and relate some of its message, which summarizes our life and the philosophy of our existence in this land. We come here today to draw from the vastness of Balamand the story of its love for the soil of Lebanon. We want to convey the eastern philosophy of Balamand that extends to the Levant and the world. Today we come here to say that we are children of encounter, children of an ontology that sees in the neighbor the face of God. We come forth from Mount Lebanon to address our brothers from all walks of life. We come forth from an edifice that has chosen learning as a beacon, illuminating everyone. We come forth from Balamand University, which condenses part of our Antiochian Church’s mission over two thousand years. We are here to tell the story of Christian Antioch, which gave the world the title of “Christians” and conveyed to the universe good news of joy through that evangelist who said: “In the beginning was the Word.”
From Souk El Gharb, from the vicinity of the Monastery of Saint George, from where Patriarch Gregory IV Haddad born in Abay delivered his soul to the Lord one fall in the year 1928, we come today and remember that great man who summed up some of the mission of the Church of Antioch’s greatness and abridged in his soul a glimpse of what we are always trying to embody at the University of Balamand. From this place, we recall his words in Zahle in 1911:
"I love my countrymen from all denominations equally. I do not differentiate between them. Aren't we all the children of one father and one mother? Aren't we all the work of One Creator? Don't we inhabit one land, enjoy the light of the same sun, take shade under the same sky, and have one flag flying above us, the flag of our dear homeland?"
From these words that summarize the mission of our church, we come to you. From the words of that prelate, at whom all those who looked saw the face of the mountain people and could not distinguish which color it belonged to, we emerge today to emphasize our message that goes beyond reconciliation. It goes beyond it until it reaches the values of coexistence and citizenship while there is a lot of talk about fatal factionalism, disguised federalism, and isolationism. Today we come out to say that we are Orthodox Christians spread in all places, and we have the best relations with everyone. We do not know the road to isolation, nor h to factionalism, fully preserving our authenticity that rejects isolation and refuses to dissolve at the same time. By virtue of our position, we have always been and will remain bridges of communication any time the language of dialogue fell silent and languages arose.
From this position, we call, as we always did, for the regular functioning of the constitutional institutions in Lebanon. The only guarantee for this is to elect a President of the Republic as soon as possible. We call on representatives and officials, in general, to assume their historical responsibility and elect a President of the Republic. We say this by having eyes on Lebanon and the region that is witnessing a difficult, even turning point. We say this having eyes on this country that yearns for peace and works to prevent the expansion of the war that rears its head from time to time. We say this having eyes on wounded Gaza and crucified Palestine at the crossroads of interests. Is it, not time for the Calvary of this Palestinian people to find a path to resurrection? We say this while we are aware that Lebanon is part of a community from which it cannot be separated. We say this while we are aware that geography plays the largest role in drawing the map of politics and that Lebanon is not an isolated island, but rather the heart of an Arab and Levantine world and an oasis of freedom and culture that has illuminated the East and the entire world. We say this having eyes on Syria, whose citizens of all denominations are now paying the tax of the stifling economic blockade, including exile, expatriation, and displacement, after having paid the price of war through violence, killing, displacement, and kidnapping. We cry aloud today while neighboring countries and the entire region are paying the price of the effects of displacement, while the world laments, ignoring the main reason, which is the stifling blockade that affects everyone, including neighboring governments and peoples. We say this having eyes on the Christians of this East and on other components, who are passengers of the same boat, away from the logic of the majority and the minority, and who pay the price of wars and instability in their lives and destinies. The case of the bishops of Aleppo, Youhanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi, who were abducted amid reprehensible international silence since April 2013, is only a small part of how the dignity of these human beings has been degraded and of the discrimination in seeking human rights by greater interests.
The University of Balamand is our ambassador to the heart of a Levantine person whom we love unconditionally. The University of Balamand is our ambassador to the East, from whose name we derive our identity. This university is our ambassador to Lebanon and Lebanese of all stripes. We wanted it in Balamand, lingering next to the eternal monastery, we wanted it in Beirut and Akkar, and we wanted it here in the shade of the Chouf cedars. We wanted it to carry the legacy of a Christian church and community, rooted in the past and looking forward to the future. We wanted it to be armed with the language of today’s civilization and informed by the sciences of the ancients. We wanted it to be all eyes on Arab and European civilization and a probe of all applied and theoretical sciences. We wanted it to spread its wings to embrace everyone from all walks of life. In this regard, you have encountered us, Your Excellency the Minister. You have provided the land and wanted the University of Balamand to be present here in Souq al-Gharb. We always remember this gratefully, we remember your late father Kamal Jumblat, and we pray for Timor. We also mention the spiritual son, Anis Nassar, who made a valuable contribution and commendable effort to bring this edifice from a dream to reality. To our brothers the monotheist Druze, the honorable sons of Bani Ma’rouf, my best greetings in the best land and the best encounter. I would like to mention His Eminence Sheikh Sami Abi-l-Mouna, with whom we have very good relations. I also remember dearly the day we visited the Bayadah sanctuaries and learned how a person communicates with God in clarity of soul and how one finds in their fellow man the best testing of one’s sincerity in seeking the mercy and pleasure of our Holy God.
Long live Souq Al Gharb and long live the beautiful mountain. Long live the University of Balamand as an ambassador to the heart of every enlightened person. Hail to you and long live Lebanon!