Panel at Volos Academy discusses Christian presence in Middle East
article about a conference
Describing dramatic consequences of the Syrian civil war, Bishop Elia Toumeh of Marmarita said that when the difficulties pass, Christians must play a constructive role in the reconciliation of opposing factions for a new Syrian society.
Bishop Elia comes from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, a member church of the World Council of Churches (WCC) based in Syria.
“Christian religious leaders are called to correctly interpret the signs of the times, so that, with the help of prayer, they are able to understand coming events. The Orthodox Church, after the difficulties pass, must be able to participate in the new Syrian society that will emerge,” he said.
He was speaking at an event of the Volos Theological Academy in Greece, titled “the present and future of Christians in the Middle East in the light of recent developments in the Arab world.” The event was held on 30 March in Melissatika, Volos, as part of academy’s programme for the current academic year titled “theology in dialogue”.
The speakers from Christian communities in the Middle East presented varied perspectives not only about the difficulties facing Christians’ very survival, but also the new challenges posed by the “Arab Spring”. They specifically addressed situations in Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon.
The discussions were moderated by Dr Pantelis Kalaitzidis, director of the Volos Theological Academy. In his remarks, he noted the academy’s profound interest in the question of Christian presence in the Middle East. He acknowledged previous initiatives by the academy on similar themes, among which Kalaitzidis mentioned as a highlight a conference held in collaboration with the WCC in June 2011.
Among other speakers were Dr Hanna Grace, a Coptic Christian and member of the Egyptian parliament, Dr Antoine Courban, professor at the Saint-Joseph University of Beirut, Lebanon and Fr. Georges Massouh, director of the Centre for Christian-Muslims Studies at the University of Balamand in Lebanon.
Christian presence in the Middle East: theological and politicalchallenges (WCC news release of 30 June 2011)