The Last Arab Christian Prince: "My Great Mission is Raise the Awareness of the West"
The Ghannasid dynasty has ruled a vast territory that included parts of present-day Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan. It was an allied Christian kingdom of the Byzantine Empire. Its importance was vital and contributed to progress to protect and promote trade.The dynasty was overthrown by the Muslims in the seventh century, although its descendants ruled kingdoms until the eighteenth century.
Currently, the heir and head of the royal house is Prince Gharios Gasánida and Actuall is confronting this great challenge: to protect millions of persecuted Christians in the areas in which his family ruled.
"I am an ordinary man with an extraordinary mission. My job is important, it is not me "
Who is the Prince Gharios of Ghassan?
The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius could be considered as one of the greatest rulers of all time. He decided to enlist a servant with the sole task of walking behind him when he received the praise of the citizens; the servant had been instructed that whenever there was praise for the emperor, he whispered in his ear: "You're only a man ...". I consider myself just a human being. A sinner full of flaws like everyone else. However, I maintain a connection with eighteen centuries. Therefore, I consider myself an ordinary man with an extraordinary mission. My job is important, it is not me.
What does it mean for the Middle East for the existence of a royal dynasty as yours, which is also the only [remaining] Christian one?
We are the only Christian dynasty in the Middle East still alive. It's the oldest Arab dynasty, which has ruled more territory and for a longer period of time. The House of Spain is the oldest in Europe. Ours is more than 1,800 years and we have become the oldest dynasty of Christianity. Considering the fact that the dynasty came from the Sabean Royal Family, its origins date back to biblical times, more than 2,000 years ago.
But even with all this ancient tradition documented, only the high academic know precisely the extent of our importance. I am the direct descendant of the last family who ruled as successors of the Ghassanids.
In this special time, how you celebrate Christmas?
It's my favorite time of year. Personally, I always make a deep reflection about how lucky I am and try to give more than I can expect to receive. I feel immensely fortunate to have food and water, while millions of people don't have this privilege. Moreover, I have the luxury of choosing what to eat. If I could ask for a Christmas present, it would be peace between religions. I know that violence is inherent in human nature, but we can not destroy each other in the name of God.
"My ancestors have even been martyred just for being Christians. I honor their sacrifice "
You are now keen to help persecuted Christians, what was the time when you decided you had to get involved so deeply and directly?
I think due to two different reasons: the first is rational and related to my historic mission as head of the dynasty. My ancestors have preserved the Christian religion from the third century, even living under oppressive regimes after the advent of Islam. They were treated as second-class citizens for centuries, paying heavy taxes (jizya) and even being martyred just for being Christians. I honor their sacrifice.
The second is purely intuitive, like the vocation of a priest. I feel very strongly that that entails to be doing this. Pope Benedict XV defended what he called "the priesthood of the nobility," next to the priesthood of the clergy. Pope Pius IX said in the encyclical Quanta Cura (1864), they "received royal power not only to the governance of the world, but especially for the protection of the Church."
Is anything being done to protect Christian minorities?
We all want world peace or to be prosperous. We wish good things. But the reason we fail is because they 'pave' a concrete way to achieve our aspirations. We see terrible news on television and there is always someone saying, "This is awful, somebody has to do something to address it".
With all due respect, I see many religious leaders who just want to pray. Prayer is very important, but only praying is clearly not working. Christians in the Middle East suffer from a lack of choice, identity, and, hence, of representation.
What is the initiative that you are leading?
It is urgent to establish a voice for Christians in the Middle East. My plan is to create a rules-based Council of the United Nations and representatives of United Nations, bringing together all those in the Middle East Christians within an assembly, which would take care of Christian interests in the region, especially providing immediate relief to Christian refugees and heading as observer to the United Nations organization. Christian voices will unite in the Middle East to voice their needs, without interfering with the sovereignty of each confession.
This organization will also lead and optimize inter-religious dialogue in the region with Muslims and Jews, as it represents the whole of Eastern Christians. I also believe that this advice will greatly improve ecumenical dialogue, since all faiths are to work much more closely.
"It is important that we, the Christians of the Middle East, we speak with one voice so that we are heard"
Do we need more unity among Christians?
It is important that we, the Christians of the Middle East, we speak with one voice to be heard. Each bishop, each patriarch can only speak for his own confession, for their particular Christian denomination. And there are dozens of Christian churches and denominations and a dozen patriarchs; thus no politician knows who should go first to not complicate it, to formulate an interfaith response. This is something we must change if we want to be efficient, and we can only solve our problems at a high political level.
Currently, Europe is experiencing a crisis of unprecedented refugees. Why does the West not react to such a drama?
It's something I also wonder. But I can assure you that very soon the problem in Europe will become so serious and come 'to the very gates of the people' that they require strong and immediate action to its European governments. You can be the positive side of all this tragedy, a revelation to the West.
Why the European countries of Christian tradition do nothing, they do not intervene?
Unfortunately, European countries generally do not have an emotional link and identification Christians in the Middle East. Well, let's start by saying that, in general, people do not know that there are Christians in the Middle East. In the West, Arab is synonymous with Muslim. This is one of my main tasks, raise awareness in the West.
Now let's talk about the Muslim countries of the region, do you think doing enough to stop Islamic State?
I have a point of view different from the majority of people worldwide. If you look at nature, you will see that nothing is 'good' or 'bad' intrinsically. Fire can warm you die of hypothermia preventing, or you can burn your house down and kill him. There is a Chinese saying: 'the same river and drink the cow snake, milk and other produce poison'. Obviously, I see the Daesh or ISIS like a terrible cancer in the region, but any crisis can get something positive or achieve a great opportunity.
"I do not think there is room for diplomacy with Daesh. I advocate a global coalition led by Muslim countries "
With Daesh (Islamic State) is the first time in recent history that a line in the sand is drawn. People talk about slowly facing the Islamic radicalism in Muslim countries. The regimes are closing radical mosques. Muslims, mostly not clearly want to be seen as tolerant of Daesh. Most Muslims think I know Daesh was created to destroy Islam! We must note here that Christians are suffering greatly from the risk of extinction in the region, but who are those who are suffering most with Daesh? Muslims, both Sunni and Shia.
Would you support a military offensive on the ground to end the genocide and other Christian minorities in the region?
The origin of radical ideological movements like Al-Qaeda and Daesh lies right in the recent presence of the 'colonial' from the western region. I heard a Pentagon analyst in Washington: "Even when we had good intentions, we fail in it." Compare the current Middle East as a game of 'Jenga', a tower of bricks, if you move one of them, can bring down the whole tower.
Therefore, you have to provide in advance all the possible implications of the strategic actions in the region, because if you move the wrong brick all that may fall. Answering the question in a simplistic way: yes, I do not think there is any room for diplomacy regarding the Daesh. But I advocate a global coalition led by Muslim countries.
What would you say to one of the thousands of Christians who see day after day that the West looks impassively die and do nothing to prevent it?
I would say that you are not alone. I promised to dedicate my life and ask nothing in return. I do not run for any political office, and if I do, please do not choose me because I will not be in my best health!
If you can not do everything, then at least I can!
How you can help a citizen of the US or Europe to change this situation?
They can use this powerful tool to shape the media. They can write to their political contacts, friends, and so on. The ordinary citizen can do much.
Remember the story of the hummingbird: There was once a lush forest that was being consumed by a terrible fire. Frightened, all the animals ran to escape the forest. They felt scared, discouraged and helpless. Each thought there was nothing they could do about the fire, but a small hummingbird. This hummingbird decided that he would do something. He swooped down the stream, picked up a few drops of water and entered the forest, throwing them over the fire. He returned to the stream to do it again and again. All other animals looked at him in disbelief; some even tried to make fun of the little bird: "Do not bother, your bill is too tiny, this is just a drop, you can not put out this fire! What do you think you're doing?" And the hummingbird, without wasting time, looked back and said: "At least, I do my part."
If we do our part, thousands of millions of hummingbirds can lead oceans in their beaks turn off any fire, everywhere. If you can not do everything, do everything you can.