Fr Georges Massouh is an Antiochian Orthodox priest and the director of the Christian Muslim Studies Center at Balamand University, Lebanon. This reflection on the kidnapped nuns of Maaloula by Fr Georges Massouh is courtesy of Notes on Arab Orthodoxy
The farce of keeping the nuns of Saint Thekla as "guests" with the pious gunmen who practice their slogans daily continues. This after they have added to it things that do not fit with
what we have become accustomed to in the Levant, in historical Antioch, from our Muslim partners over fourteen centuries. However, they must be thanked because they have given us proof that the nuns
are still breathing, something that the "hosts" of Metropolitans Boulos Yazigi and Youhanna Ibrahim and other priests have not given us until now. That is, indication of their fate.
It is true that Christ the Lord said, "Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Matthew 5:39) and we do what we are able to follow this commandment of the Lord's with faith and firm conviction that "evil does not resist evil." However, He also commanded us not to lie, so why do you force the nuns to lie? Is it in order to pile more sin upon your sins?
Reverend Mother Pelagia Sayyaf of St. Tekla’s Convent in Maaloula, one of 11 nuns and three lay women kidnapped from the convent in December of 2013. In the videos made of the nuns by their Islamist captors it appears that the nuns have been forced to remove their pectoral crosses.
The Lord also said, "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). Be sure that the
nuns have not departed from this commandment. They pray for your sake even as you consider the prayer to be outright disbelief. You have made yourselves their enemies, those who curse
them, those who hate them, those who do harm to them, in addition to your having expelled them from their holy monastery unjustly.
Does your book not command you to treat Christians in your lands well, where it asserts, "And thou wilt find the nearest of them in affection to those who believe to be those who say: Lo! We are Christians. That is because there are among them priests and monks, and because they are not proud"(Surat al-Ma'ida 82). The nuns of Maaloula were not proud and they did not bear arms. Rather, they armed themselves with love and mercy. And we saw their frightened eyes well up with tears not because they heard "what was revealed to the Messenger" (Surat al-Ma'ida 83), but because they witnessed your heinous deeds.
Does it not also command you to justice and fairness when it asserts, "Allah forbiddeth you not those who warred not against you on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes, that ye should show them kindness and deal justly with them. Lo! Allah loveth the just dealers" (Surat al-Mumtahana 8)? Where is the justice in your kidnapping nuns who did not fight you and who did not drive you from your homes? How can God love you when you go against what you consider to be the ruling of the revealed verses of God?
Then I hope that my Syrian brothers will understand that my words about the nuns here do not mean that I have no concern for what other Syrians are suffering through-- Sunni, Alawite, Druze and atheist. I have written in previous articles that the Syrian Christian is not more precious than others, that a church is not more precious than a mosque, and that Maaloula is not more precious than the neighborhoods of Homs and Aleppo... We are all equal before the merciful God who loves mankind.
The Holy Apostle Paul says, "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14). You ripped the cross from the nuns' necks-- go ahead and rip it off! We do not depend on external appearance. But know that the cross is engraved upon the heart of each one of them, upon their flesh, their blood, their nerves, their bones, their minds and their pores... No one can to rip it off or efface it.
The message of the two bishops and the nuns and their companions is that Syria belongs to us, just as she belongs to all her people and that we are called to bear witness there to our Lord and Redeemer and we will not fail Him. The hour is coming when she will hear us say, "We heed your call, O Lord of Glory, here we are." Original in Arabic here