“Christianity in the East: to where?” Conference report and statement
The Royal Institute for Inter-faith Studies of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan convened this conference
At the honorable auspices of His Royal Highness Prince Hassan Ibn Talal, the President of the board of the Royal Institute of Inter-Faith Studies (RIIFS) in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; and at the invitation of the aforementioned institute in cooperation with the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo, and the Mennonite Central Committee, a seminar was organized in Amman – Jordan during the two days of 12 – 13 March 2012 on the theme: “Christianity in the East: to where?”.
The intervention of the eminent speakers highlighted the situation of Christians in the Middle East in light of the current changes as it is called the Arab Spring. The participants in the seminar were Bishops, clergies, researchers, and scholars, Muslims and Christians; and were from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Sudan and Iran.
His Excellency Professor Dr Kamel Abu Jaber, Director of the RIIFS opened the first session by welcoming the participants, thanking HRH Prince Hassan Ibn Talal for his Royal auspices of the aforementioned seminar. He explained the importance of holding such a seminar in the current circumstances of the Middle East.
By his turn, His Eminence Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim Metropolitan of Aleppo for the Syrian Orthodox spoke about the misgivings of the immigration of Christians from the Middle East which was and still is the most crucial issues, especially in sequence of the current unsettled situation which the region is passing through. He added that the Christians feel that their rights in citizenship and equality in some Arabic countries are denied.
In his word, HRH Prince Hassan Ibn Talal said that: “the Arab Christians are Arabs, and are the pioneers of thought and Arab revival. They are authentic and genuine in their countries”. HRH stressed on the importance of cooperative work between Muslims and Christians for the sake of the revival of their countries.
The sessions of the seminar went on according to the agenda of the meeting. The speakers presented research papers which reflected the situation of Christians, their concerns and hopes in their respective countries. Most of the papers articulated the importance of preserving the religious, thought, and social diversity. It reflected the concerns about accepting the other on the basis of equality in citizenship, affirming the political and social justice, protecting and building the states, as well as releasing the freedom of opinion and religious belief. The papers highlighted the significance of the conscious, active and witness Christian presence; the work and cooperation with Muslim leadership and media to increase the awareness about the importance of the Christian presence in the Arab societies, which ultimately contribute to the revival and the consolidation of the principles of the one living.
At the end of the seminar, the participants issued the following recommendations:
- Establish a “follow up Committee” which consists of the following persons: H.E Prof Dr Kamel Abu Jaber (Jordan), H.E Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim (Syria), Dr Ali Muhafza (Jordan), H.G Bishop Louis Sako (Iraq), Rev Dr Riad Jarjour (Lebanon), Rev Dr Mitri Raheb (Palestine), Fr Rifaat Badr (Jordan), Dr Amer Al-Hafi (Jordan).
- Endeavor to hold a seminar and invite Eminent Muslim and Christian religious leaders, scholars, as well as representatives of the Waqf, education, higher education, and media ministries to attend. The seminar aims at discussing the ways of joint cooperation especially that which has to do with religious and cultural diversity in the Arab societies for the sake of all.
- Uphold what was stated in the last Al-Azhar document of Egypt about the principles of freedoms, the respect of human rights, and the equality between citizens without distinction according to race or religion or denomination. Based on that, it is recommended to hold a meeting with the leadership of Al-Azhar in Egypt aiming at consolidating the cooperation and the future work.
- Uphold the suggestion of HRH Prince Hassan Ibn Talal in adopting an “Arabic Social Charter” which regulates the issue of general freedoms and rights; resolve the concept of democracy which accomplishes the social justice and human dignity, and equality among the people under citizenship. To that, it is recommended to cooperate with the “Arab Thought Forum” to adopt the Charter when it is being issued in its final form.
- The call to review the curricula of education and the religious speech in order to abolish all types of confusion which touches the dogma, the history and the identity of the other. The call is also to introduce new concepts which concentrate on the civil state that is the state of law and diverse culture.
- The call to establish a regional “observatory” to monitor and exchange information on religious freedom in the Middle East.
The participants send a cordial, thanks and appreciation message to His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Hussein.
The participants thanked His Royal Highness Prince Hassan Ibn Talal for his patronage of the seminar.