MECC Executive Committee Meeting Statement

MECC Executive Committee Meeting Statement

The Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches held its regular meeting in Beirut on Friday and Saturday, November 17 and 18, 2023. The meeting was chaired by His Eminence Anba Antonios, Archbishop of Jerusalem and the Near East for the Coptic Orthodox and MECC President for the Eastern Orthodox family, His Beatitude Patriarch John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East for the Greek Orthodox and MECC President for the Orthodox family, represented by His Excellency Metropolitan Antonios Al Souri, Metropolitan of Zahle, Baalbek and their dependencies, His Excellency Rev. Dr. Paul Haidostian, President of the Association of Armenian Evangelical Churches in the Near East and MECC President for the Evangelical Family, and His Beatitude Patriarch Raphael Bedros XXI Menassian,  and Catholicos Patriarch of Cilicia for the Armenian Catholics and MECC President for the Catholic Family, represented by His Excellency Archbishop Boutros Marayati, Archbishop of Aleppo. The meeting was attended by members of the Executive Committee from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Cyprus, and Palestine, representatives of the Middle Eastern churches, members of the MECC, the Secretary-General Dr. Michel Abs, the Associate Secretary Generals, and the General Secretariat team of directors of departments and sections, and administrators.

At the beginning of the meeting, the participants observed a minute of silence and prayed for the relief of the souls of the victims of the bloody war in Palestine, especially in the Gaza Strip.

The most prominent issue on which the participants focused was the situation in Palestine. They condemned all forms of violence, regardless of their source, and strongly condemned the war raging there, which is destroying people and infrastructure, especially in the Gaza Strip. This war has left thousands of victims, wounded and injured, especially among children, the elderly, and women. They demanded an immediate and definitive ceasefire, an end to genocide, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people, and the release of all prisoners. They called on the churches in the world, the international community, and all people of good will, to exert all efforts to silence weapons and establish a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace by ending the occupation and the siege that led to what we see today as a brutal war that does not respect international conventions that protect hospitals, schools, places of worship, and the civilian population. They condemned these inhumane acts that contradict our Christian faith.

The Secretary General of the Council presented the most prominent activities and tasks accomplished by the MECC throughout the current year. This included the reports of the Council’s departments and projects in the theological, ecumenical, humanitarian, relief, and media fields. In addition, the financial report and future prospects for the sustainability of the Council’s work were discussed, along with the internal regulations and procedures of the Council in all its offices.

The meeting also discussed the proposed program for the fiftieth jubilee for the establishment of the Middle East Council of Churches throughout the next year, 2024. The historical path of the Council since its establishment in Nicosia, Cyprus in 1974 was reviewed with gratitude to the Lord, and the ongoing preparations for this historic occasion were also discussed.

The participants addressed the issue of genocide, threats to human dignity and cultural heritage, and the impunity of perpetrators that continues to this day. They also noted the Council’s message to the Climate Change Conference in Dubai, COP28, early next month.

The Ecumenical Day for the Abducted and Forcibly Absented, clergy and laity, which was held by the MECC on April 22, 2023, was noted by the participants, especially after more than ten years of the abduction of the Archbishops of Aleppo, John Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi.

The work of the MECC’s General Secretariat team, departments, and sections was commended, as well as the service and relief work it performs to extend a helping hand to all those in need, in light of the difficult circumstances in the Middle East region. This includes helping those affected by the earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey.

The importance of cooperation and joint work within the Association of Theological Institutes in the Middle East was stressed upon, along with the need to activate the role of young people and enhance their participation in the life of churches and the work of the Council.

The meeting discussed the general situation in the countries of the Middle East and made several calls:

First: The meeting urgently called on political officials in Lebanon, especially the members of the House of Representatives, to arbitrate their national conscience and sense of responsibility. They were urged to immediately elect a President of the Republic, in preparation for restoring the regularity of the work of constitutional institutions and lifting the country out of the political, economic, and social crises it suffers from. Efforts should also be made to prevent the war in Palestine from spilling over into Lebanon.

Second: The meeting sought to reduce the suffering of the Syrian people by lifting the economic sanctions imposed on them, which push Syrians to emigrate. There was also a call for solidarity with Iraq, which is working to recover despite difficulties and challenges, in support of stability in the homeland.

Third: The meeting commended the efforts of officials in Egypt and Jordan to promote stability and the values of freedom, justice, and human rights in both countries. They appreciated their role in preventing the displacement of the Palestinian people and liquidating their cause.

Fourth: The meeting demanded an end to the civil war in Sudan and repeated the call for the unification of Cyprus.

Fifth: The Executive Committee delegates the Secretary General to send an open letter to the heads of churches, ecumenical councils, and international organizations on the position of the churches of the Middle East on the events in Palestine and the Middle East.

In conclusion, the participants thanked the Lord Jesus, who accompanied them in their meeting and work. They prayed to Him, the Lord of Peace, to extend His peace and safety throughout the world, especially in the Holy Land and in the Middle East. They hoped for weapons to fall silent, wars to end, long-standing ordeals and crises to disappear, and everyone to enjoy stability and tranquility. They trusted in the Lord’s promise to those who believe in Him and rely on Him: “Do not be afraid… Trust that I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).