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Christians in the Muslim World

When Traditions Meet

Interview with H. E. Jean-Clément Jeanbart, Archbishop of Alep (Melkite), Syria

Your Excellency, Oasis has chosen to place the theme of tradition at the heart of its reflection. In your opinion can this help or hinder inter-faith and intercultural dialogue?



It depends. When two different religious communities live together for centuries, tradition is a positive element and a means for dialogue. When communities from different cultures or countries come together all of a sudden, tradition can create some difficulties.



Do you think that the work of the Oasis Scientific Committee can help participants, in their own distinct ways, experience more consciously the coming together of Muslims and Christians?



Indeed, the work Oasis calls us to do is useful; it gives us new motivations and ideas. Above all it makes us pass on what is happening in the world to others in our countries; it ideally helps us put in touch people and experiences that can be far from one another; and it shows them the efforts that are being made to improve relations and mutual understanding between religions.



Do you believe that the coming together of Christians and Muslims can bring about changes in their respective traditions?




Coming together can lead to the purification of tradition. It forces us to take a closer look at those elements that are essential and those that are just contingent; it forces us to distinguish between what comes from history or particular customs and what comes from faith. In other words, it pushes us to interpret tradition in the light of the circumstances in which we live without betraying its original content.



How would you describe the situation of Christians in Syria at this point in time?




The situation of Christians in Syria is very good. We have all the rights that other communities have and of course the same duties. We participate in the government of the country and in its civil life. We are respected and even helped. Like those used in Muslim worship our buildings are tax-exempt, a sign that Christians enjoy actual religious freedom. It is a situation that is certainly better than many other Christian minorities in the world.




* Interview care of Michele Cisco



Oasis International Foundation Scientitic Committee. Venice, June 22-23 2009

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