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S.H. Fahs: Let Peace Prevail

Address to the International Leadership Conference
Beirut, Lebanon, January 15, 2009

In The Name of God The Merciful, The Compassionate.

I am one of hundreds of millions of people, of all religions and colors, nations and genders, who ache a great deal whenever our convictions and unshakable faith in God compel us to call for peace, together with all who jubilantly champion peace. For in the concluding of our prayers and invocations for peace to prevail upon Earth, we feel sad and apprehensive lest we have forgotten, or tried to forget, brethren who agonize, every day, and their bodies, souls, prayers, dreams, fasting, memories, trees, fields, illness, health, students’ copybooks, children’s toys, and infants’ milk are all anguished and tormented … in Palestine!

In a few words I declare: May peace prevail upon the Jews, and if it doesn’t, then peace may be lacking; and if peace doesn’t prevail upon the Palestinians, there shall never be peace!

We certainly do not wish to resolve the Palestinian tragedy by causing a Jewish one. The Palestinians and we settle for a nation, alongside a Hebrew nation that protects them. The Palestinians and we even settle for one nation for all, presided by a Jew, under a predestined and unchangeable constitutional provision whereby we all deal with this question according to the rights, laws, and international charters, and not according to religion or ethnicity.

Let us all appeal to the Jews, with whom we unite under the Abrahamic monotheism and great faith in peace, to reach out for peace. If Zionism has divided us, then we must Judaize Zionism so that Judaism may cease to be Zionism. Let us advance toward peace and let us all read our religious scriptures in peace. Let us renew our religions through our “humanness” that reaches out through our faith. Let us advance toward our common tomorrow.

Dear friends: This is the soul’s sanctuary. Can you not see, however, how the soul suffers with and in the body, and how it returns to God when the body is violated and can no longer uphold the soul that cannot find its place in the human heart? Violence ravages the soul when it assaults the body, exactly as the body is ravaged and is afflicted when the soul is subjected to violence and insignificance.

Let us then cleanse our religions, lives, rhetoric, and daily language and rid them of all suspicion or allegation that they cause direct and indirect violence. Let us say to one another, “Salam.” Let us make true, devoted, cherished, and pervading peace; in other words: comprehensive peace.

Salam” is the first name God has chosen for Himself and for us. How can we, thus, worship Him through coercion or sin? I do know if this is an almost unattainable dream, but I know that the villains have shown greater strength at manufacturing war and massacring peace than we have shown at peace.

The greatest function of faith is to surmount hardships and hurdles. Let us then construct a shrine for peace, a lighthouse in this darkness, where stray sheep may be sheltered and with which we can infiltrate this ensuing scene of devastation and murder. Let us construct a castellated abbey for moderation and moderates to protect them from the harm of fanatics and the temptations of fanaticism.

Let us protect ourselves and our nations with our religions and protect our faiths with ourselves. Let us advance toward the beautiful debate between love and life. Let us raise death to the level of life instead of bringing life down to death. Let us stand shamefacedly in front of our children who look at us with innocence and promise us life if we look back at them with guile and promise them death and dispose them for it. For if the evil ones remain free to commit atrocities in religion’s name and for their very own mundane purposes, and we, in turn, persist in our protesting and objecting, and are divided and alienated as we pray and proclaim our love, then we will imperil our faith. This herd-like conduct can turn us to accomplices of evil and can “indict” and “convict” our religions.

Do you not foresee, as I do, our coming generations brooding over this profusion of bloodshed carried out for alleged religious purposes and caused by religious hands? The coming generations will, as a result, favor life, peace, and partnership in knowledge and creativity over the religions that justify murder and extol murderers. Let us say to them and with them: "This is false … utterly false. This is not religion."

Religion involves “the Other” first and foremost. “The Other” is the true test of your faith. If you live with “the Other” in you, you are alive. And if you kill “the Other," you are dead. Teach “the Other,” through peace, not to kill you or to kill himself in you. Work for God in your homeland with all its people, and do not stray away and exploit God for your ulterior motives. That is sin and not faith. That is politics devoid of politics because of its lack of values and of “the Other.” It is as close to the renouncement of God as ever, since it pushes people toward atheism and senselessly kills the faith in us.

Don’t dream of an end of war; rather, endeavor to assure the “war people” that love, dialogue, coexistence, and peace will never stop. True peace comes when we all share its making. If peace’s blessings prevail, we will be blessed. If it is conditioned, it curses and kills.

Sheikh Fahs is a Founding Member of the Arab Committee for the Islamic-Christian Dialogue and the Permanent Committee for the Lebanese Dialogue. He also works with the NGO Joy in Giving.