Following in the text of the message addressed by newly-elected Secretray General of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) to MECC’s presidents and executive committee dated October 1, 2020:
Beirut, October 1st 2020
Your Holiness, Your Beatitudes, Your Eminencies, Your Graces,
Most Reverend Pastors and Fathers,
Dear Sisters and Brothers who shared with us the Ecumenical Day that took place in Bkerke on September 18th, 2020,
Dear Colleagues at the Middle East Council of Churches,
As His Beatitude Patriarch John X Yazigi of Antioch and all the East honored me with his appreciation and overwhelmed me with his love by commissioning me and nominating me to the office of the General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches,
And as You yourselves have graciously accepted this nomination,
Allow me to express to You my deepest gratitude as you have entrusted to my care this most precious talent.
Let me furthermore share with you the firm belief that I have concerning a talent for which I shall be accountable as it is put in my trust in the present historical moment we are all passing through and as we are engulfed in dangers that know no precedent.
This institution that you have entrusted me with, is part and parcel of my heart as I am also part of it. In it I have had the opportunity of sharpening a most important aspect of the values I carry in my personal entity, namely the altruistic ability to love and care for others to the utmost. These values stem from what I had been trained in at home, in school as well as at university.
As of my early childhood years, I have carried within myself the admonitions of the Sermon on the Mount which were grafted in me in the Orthodox School of the Annunciation in Beirut where our guidebook in school in the curricular religious education program was the most valuable handbook of “The Orthodox Catechesis”.
School is a most efficient tutor in fostering faith as well as in instilling a value system in us. Good fruits grow with care whereas thorns grow out of neglect. University training crowns what has been planted in us at home as well as in school. And so it was that, as I joined the Saint Joseph University in Beirut, I was helped to witness in its midst the incarnation of Christian charity as well as the valuable ethics of scientific research that contributes into forming a most important preparation to professional life. At the Saint Joseph University, I partook of the source of knowledge and values.
As for the Middle East Council of Churches, it is dear to my heart for what it stands for as well as for what it has given me, and this as much so as during my decade of work in it as a staff member as well as during many more years that followed as I kept up all the ties friendships and commitments I had acquired in it. The MECC, as I always refer to it, bears in itself the best exemplar of Christian Togetherness and dedicated action. Through it, member churches can accomplish together what none can accomplish isolated from its other sister communities. As a matter of fact, its continuity and support constitute a faith priority that cannot be disputed.
However, the Council is an institution, and as such it displays similar discrepancies as those that can be identified in any other institution. Moreover, it faces challenges that any other institution faces. This is the reason why its structure as well as the priorities it sets for itself at any given point in time require constant evaluation and upgrading in order to keep pace with the developments and changes that take place in its environmental setting and this in order for it to be able to carry out the important tasks entrusted to it, namely, on the one hand ecumenical work at the service of Christian Presence and Witness, as well as the dissemination of an ecumenical culture through the various projects it initiates and follows up on. Needless to say, that successful implementation of such tasks lies deeply incumbent on the skills of leadership, innovation and excellency present in its staff backed up of course with the necessary availability of funds.
We live in the era of Knowledge in which priority is placed on knowledge and information as an important resource. Institutions and set ups are managed in this day and age by knowledge. For this very reason, the Council will have to further become a community managed by knowledge and this as much in its own organizational set up as in its various dealings with church institutions. Such a strategy will have to rely heavily on modern communication techniques that facilitate the achievement of the goals it sets for itself.
We live in the era of Governance, so it is imperative that the Council’s institutional set up operates according to the logic of sound governance. In other words, all stakeholders in any undertaking the Council sets for itself to delve into will have to speak up and be heard. This means that the logic of decision-making will be steered through sound governance and participation of all and this at all levels of common deliberations and action.
Moreover, we live in the era of Quality Management in which institutions throughout the world are racing to uphold quality in output, a policy which has proven to be effective in improving the structures of institutions as well, developing their work policies and thereby raising their levels of productivity.
We are also in the era of the Strategic Human Resources Management, so it is imperative for us to follow the path that has already started in this direction at the MECC, namely in establishing the rules for the scientific management of the human resources in order to raise their productivity and secure better fairness in dealing with personnel. In this context, it is imperative for our churches to provide us with skilled persons with adequate competencies, either for employment when positions become vacant, for appointing members to departmental or projects committees, or for forming Think Tanks for emerging issues that the Council finds itself faced with.
However, we are in a period of major transformations as the era is witnessing tremendous events that will undoubtedly change the face of humanity. Plenty are the dangers of our times and, as the popular saying goes, “Challenges are plentiful and weigh heavily on the shoulder of the porter”. Will we bear up to such challenges? History is ruthless, and it does not record wishes and intentions, but facts and actions. History is often written by the victors. Will we be among them?
As for the major challenge that we face, it lies in the maintenance of the Christian presence in our region, no matter how we define it. All that is mentioned above in this letter of mine has this goal as an aim. This is the challenge that cannot bear any controversial interpretation.
However, this goal can only be achieved through the cooperation of the various entities that constitute the Church of Christ. In the Council we are the home and bastion of Christian cooperation, we are the embodiment of Interchurch joint action. There are many fields that lay barren and uncultivated between the churches, and we are called to transform them into fertile fields where common experiences and growth prevail, so that they turn into spaces of love and knowledge.
Preserving our people on their land–where they have been living for more than two millennia–needs tremendous efforts. This is a task that is out of the ordinary, requiring the adoption of new methods at the level of challenges, and we are called to meet its beckoning.
Spiritual renewal and Christian nurture are essential tools for steadfastness and survival. But life also has material dimensions that cannot be ignored and must be dealt with, such as vocational rehabilitation, housing, health care, and education.
I do not hereby claim that the Church should replace the Government and fill its shortcomings in our region, but I only bear witness that the Church is called to provide a safety net in areas – both geographical underserved areas as well as functional service areas- in which the state is absent and in which society has disintegrated. What has happened in Lebanon is but an example among many at that.
Human groups face times of difficulties and tribulations, difficulties from which they can only be saved by faith supported by service, for human life is both spirit and matter as well.
Despite the difficulties we face today, and despite the crises that beset us, being one is the solution. Either we are a compact entity so that no one can break us, or we are fragments that can be broken stick by stick. This is true not only for the Christian community. It applies also to the homeland as well.
Studies in History and Sociology have both proven that the values with which our faith is impregnated lie behind the renaissance of humanity as well as behind its scientific progress. Is it not a fact that the values it bears were behind the establishment of schools and universities? Did they not bring about the development of scientific research, of social service as well as of all aspects of civilization?
I, for one, have the firm certainty that this vine that the Lord has planted two millennia ago will continue to spread to include ever growing areas of the planet.
The gates of Hell will not prevail against it.