Damascus – March 2004. In the presence of all Syrian Christian and Muslim religious leaders, The President of Syria, His Excellency Bashar Al-Assad, delivered an important public statement highlighting Syria’s ancient and contemporary contribution to Muslim-Christian dialogue as well as his own commitment to such dialogue internationally. The President used this opportunity to recall the visit of the Holy Father to Syria in 2000, and highlighted the important position and role of Christianity in Syria.
In his public statement President Bashar al-Assad expressed happiness at the stance taken by Pope John Paul II internationally which the President said ‘ whose positions are highly appreciated especially towards major world issues.” The President pointed out that the importance of the occasion lies in the fact that it expresses a common vision of many great human values, which are embodied in the teachings of Islam and Christianity. This common vision confirms that these values didn’t disappear, but rather they are strengthening day by day in the world. It also gives evidence to the falsity of the notion of a clash of civilizations. It tells that there is dialogue between civilizations.
The most important of any civilization is the human one, despite the importance of other aspects. But the human one calls for understanding between faiths, civilizations and cultures.
He said that Syria is a small country in terms of geography and population, yet is big in terms of its history, culture and heritage which express a social richness. It is not the long history which made this society rich, but rather the different approaches taken over history where Muslims and Christians stood together as one body in the face of many invasions ad wares launched against Syria.
The President also referred in his address to the Umayyad Grand Mosque which is one of Islam’s most important monuments. It was the Christians who identified its site, the President said and this is where the tomb of St John the Baptist is situated inside the Mosque. Pope John Paul II visited the Mosque during his visit to Syria in 2000.
The President added that Syria is the only country in the world where her inhabitants still speak the Aramaic Language – the language of Jesus Christ. The President said ” This order of merit is therefore not for me personally, but for the Syrian society and Syrian history which we are all proud of. I can also assure you and the whole world that Syria has played this role for over 1400 years and will play the same role confidently in the future as a bridge connecting peoples, cultures and civilizations and faiths.”