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Fares, Guest of Honor at the 45th Conference of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Convention - July 28, 2001
Deputy Prime Minister Issam Fares headed to Europe, then to the United States where he was the keynote speaker and distinguished guest at the 45th Conference of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Convention which will be held this year in Los Angeles in presence of more than three thousand people. Fares will hold talks regarding Lebanon, the Lebanese diaspora, and the Middle East.

On Fares’ schedule is also a conference he will deliver upon the invitation of the World Affairs Council which is one of the most important American intellectual and political think-tanks. The said Council had already hosted 130 world personalities.

The General Secretariat of the Conference had received a letter from US President George W. Bush& First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush in which they expressed their sincere wishes for the Congress to meet with success. President Bush’s letter included a warm salute to Deputy Prime Minister Issam Fares.

Prior to his arrival to the Congress, Fares had made a declaration in which he underlined the importance of the occasion in which takes part thousands of spiritual leaders representing the Antiochian Orthodox Church, praising the role played by the spiritual institutions in the diaspora to strengthen ties and consolidate bonds between the emigrants and their motherland. Finally, Fares applauded the effective presence of the Antiochian Orthodox Church in Northern America.

Fares is awarded the Gold Medal of Merit in acknowledgement of his good offices

Full Transcript of Fares’ speech
Tonight, I am delighted to address you as an Antiochian Orthodox, as a Lebanese and as an Arab who deeply feels and understands the problems facing the Middle East and their repercussions on Lebanon. Amid such a spiritual gathering, I would like to recall a part of our glorious history in the Arab Mashrek.

As Antiochian Orthodox, we follow Saints Peter and Paul who founded the Church in Antioch, known in history as the City under God. We follow the Apostles and the Fathers of the Church. Our faith is based on the consensus of those early carriers of the message of Jesus Christ. We represent the Church in its finest form of doctrine, unity, and purity. While we respect all spiritual capitals of Christianity, we hold fast to the distinguished role of Antioch. It is truly the mother of all Christian capitals. In Antioch, for the first time, the followers of Christ were called “Christians”. Let’s remember that, and let us keep Antioch as our guiding star.

We are Christian Arabs, and we are proud to be an Eastern Church. We are proud of our customs and values that we should protect against the globalization that has taken the world by storm and is imposing values and principles contrary to those we have always adopted. When Islam emerged, six centuries after Christ, we were there to welcome the new religion and to stand by it against foreign occupiers. We are the original Christians and we are from that region. We are neither new comers to Christianity nor to the Arab region. We were there for the last 2000 years, and there we shall stay for millenniums to come. We have always stood by our Arab Muslim brothers in facing the powers that were dominating this region at that time and which is tries or could try again to dominate it.

We Antiochian Orthodox Christians live and prosper in a pluralist society. We respect other cultures and religions. We do not impose ourselves on others, but we do not appreciate others imposing themselves on us. While we do not intrude on others, we welcome those who willingly and from their own free choice, join our Antiochian Orthodox Church. In North America and under Metropolitan Philip, we have been welcoming new comers to our church with open arms. To those of you who are with us this evening, I say Welcome Home.

As Antiochian Orthodox Christians, we are a religious minority in all countries of the Middle East and North America. But we never behave as a minority. We have no complexes and we are not insecure. We always act as members of the mainstream, and often as its leaders.

As Antiochian Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians, Palestinians and other countries of origin, we led the major national movements in the region in the last two centuries. Our Contributions to progress, democracy and human dignity in the region are well known. In almost all national and reform movements we were always in the forefront.

In the Lebanese war that fragmented the country, Antiochian Orthodox leaders played an important role in bringing peace to Lebanon. Of all the proposals submitted by Lebanese communities to end the war, the principles submitted by the leaders of our Antiochian Orthodox community on October 18, 1983, stand out among the best. We declared then:
  • That Lebanon is a final nation-state; There will be no partition, no secession, no cantons;
  • That Lebanon is an integral part of the Arab world;
  • That Lebanon is independent and sovereign within its internationally recognized borders;
  • That Lebanon is a republican, democratic country based on fundamental freedoms;
  • That the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be incorporated in the Lebanese constitution;
  • That the future of Lebanon should be determined by agreement among the Lebanese: All Lebanese, Christians and Muslims.

You will be pleased to learn that these principles, declared in 1983, were fully incorporated in the 1989 Taef Agreement that brought peace to Lebanon.

While Lebanon made great progress since the end of the war in 1990, we still face major hurdles. This is expected for countries that have been in war for some twenty years. We are working hard to repair the damage in all sectors - private and public. We are attempting reform under most difficult national and regional conditions.

Regarding the Middle East, after fifty years of a persistent Arab-Israeli conflict, our region deserves peace, and deserves continuous attention and empathy from the United States. We, in Lebanon, are working together to withstand regional pressures and ensure a just and courageous peace in the region. Only in such peace can Lebanon attain the stability it needs to play a leading role in furthering the causes of freedom and prosperity in the region.

The regional peace we seek must incorporate:
  • The withdrawal of Israel from all occupied Arab territories
  • The elimination of weapons of mass destruction in the region
  • The establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital
  • The right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and to the new Palestinian state, and their right to compensation
You and I know that these principles, though just and fair, will not be implemented without strong and persistent American involvement. Your role in this regard is important.
The Middle East is too important for the United States to be left to linger in its own contradictions. The Middle East is the home of the three heavenly religions. It is a strategic region linking three continents. It has the largest reservoir of oil in the World is thus the engine for the world economy. The stability of the Middle East is important for the stability of the world order. The Arab – Israeli conflict, if left unchecked, could lead to a regional war whose widening tide could not be contained.

As Antiochian Orthodox, we are concerned in this conflict. We have always upheld the just national causes in the region, and now it is our moral duty to support a just peace, a peace that will recognize the full rights of the Lebanese, the Syrians and the Palestinians.

You, as loyal and influential Americans and Canadians have the opportunity to influence decision-makers in both countries. You have the opportunity to enlighten your leaders about the basic issues facing your countries of origin. You have the opportunity to make a difference in what America and Canada do, or not do, in our part of the world.

Allow me tonight, therefore, to challenge you to get involved. You will be better Citizens if you are more involved in the system. I am not asking you to be less Americans or less Canadians. On the contrary, I am begging you to be more Americans and more Canadians by getting involved.

I also want to address specifically our American sisters and brothers. You live in this great country. Your country is the leader of the world. This adds to your challenges and duties a dimension and responsibility not available to other Antiochian Orthodox Christians around the globe.

We want peace, a just peace, for all countries in the region.

We want freedom and respect of the basic principles of human rights for all peoples in the region.

We want economic prosperity and reasonable living conditions for all countries and peoples in the region.

To achieve such noble goals, to achieve peace, freedom and prosperity we need the help of the United States. Such an objective can only be achieved if you are willing to help. If you become more involved, if you become better Americans.