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Posted on Mon 18 May 2015

Response to Boris Johnson’s article, "We must save Palmyra or the maniacs will r

Bishop Michael responded to Boris Johnson’s latest article in the Telegraph entitled, “We must save Palmyra or the maniacs will raze civilisation.”

He wrote,

"Sir,

Boris Johnson (We must save Palmyra,17 May) is right about Palmyra being an icon of a common civilisation which Europe enjoyed with Western and South-Western Asia along with Northern and North-Eastern Africa. The traffic of ideas,beliefs and values flowed in all directions,Christianity being the leading,but not the only,one which came from East to West. Greek Philosophy,Science and learning generally were, as Boris Johnson says, recovered in the Middle East but the translators were mainly Christian clergy, from different churches, who translated either directly from Greek into Arabic or, more usually from Syriac (a wholly Christian language) into Arabic. It is the descendants of these people who have been killed, exiled and brutalised by ISIS, as I know from personal experience. The Muslim commentators ,mentioned, have usually been regarded as unorthodox by mainstream Islam in the way in which extremists today regard moderate Muslims as infidels. The learning was transmitted to the West either by Jewish traders or by the Arabic speaking Christian communities of the Iberian peninsula. The Umayyad mosque in Damascus is, indeed, a monument to this common civilisation. Before it was forcibly converted into a mosque, it was, of course, the Cathedral of St John the Baptist (his head is reputedly still there and venerated by Muslim and Christian alike). Saving people and saving their heritage are not necessarily different things. We must strive to save both or we will end up either with ‘heritage parks’ or with alienated people some of whom may become refugees in Europe.

Yours faithfully, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali"

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