Witnesses of Mercy for Peace and Reconciliation

19 of love. When we talk about the love of God we mean that He gave the people the most mercy, He elevated them from slaves to children by the reconciliation that happened through Jesus Christ. And when we talk about human mercy, it is incorporated in an example that Jesus gives us, the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, Jesus tells us about good acts and about three types of people. At the end of the parable He asks which of the three was the most kindred, the answer to which was the one who showed mercy. So, human mercy is not a theological concept but shows itself in the act of mercy. If you examine and analyse everything that the ancient fathers of the Church have written about mercy, you find that this concept becomes one of performing good deeds, as if divine mercy becomes flesh in acts that are done towards others as good deeds. So, when the ancient fathers of the Church talk about mercy they are immediately talking about good deeds. Saint John says that the second shirt in your wardrobe should not be yours, it is not yours, it is for your brother who has no clothes. The ancient fathers of the Church adopted this idea, as did Saint Vasilios who said that poor people do good because they offer us the chance to do good deeds. The poor are therefore the most noble people. From Christian theology, we can understand why the Church has created organizations and grand institutions that work through mercy and provide relief and aid for all people without discrimination because it stems from a direct response to the divine command to be merciful as our God in heaven is merciful. Because Jesus reconciled us with God, we are called upon to reconcile ourselves with all peoples and there- fore Christians have no enemies at all. Christians are called upon to reconcile with all peoples of the world. To conclude, I want to mention a personal experience of mercy. I come from a region in Syria that has taken in many displaced families. We saw that people were taking others – Christians and Muslims, without dis- crimination – in to their homes and sharing their food and shelter. The Church itself has performed many acts of mercy without discrimination of the differences of religions or creeds. Conversely, in my region I know Muslim people who were faster than Christians in show- ing mercy and demonstrating that everybody is united as one during this time of crisis that is wreaking destruc- tion and war in our home country, Syria. His Grace The Right Reverend Bishop Elias Toumeh Bishop Elias Toumeh is the Greek Orthodox Bishop of Wadi al Nasara, Syria. He holds a degree in civil engi- neering from the University of Tishreen in Latakia, a degree in theology from Balamand University, as well as higher qualifications in dialogue between the religions and in Islamic and Arabic Studies from the Jesuit and Pontifical Universities in Rome, respectively. He wrote a doctorate in comparative religions at the University of Thessalonica and is currently professor at the Univer- sity of Balamand. He has also published nine books in several languages, including English, Italian and Greek. Bishop Elias has participated in more than 25 international conferences since 2010, often as part of cooperative ecumenical endeavours to win support for Syrian Christians and to campaign for peace in Syria. He has spoken about the importance of sacrificial ministry, the increasingly diverse responsibilities of the clergy in war zones (his own church has become a relief centre) and the urgent need for diplomacy and dialogue, fol- lowed by humanitarian aid to sooth the region’s wounds. His church’s Peace Centre for Children encourages chil- dren of all faiths to care for one another. THE FOUNDAT IONS OF MERCY