Conference issues statement on Christian presence in the Middle East

Conference issues statement on Christian presence in the Middle East

A World Council of Churches (WCC) conference has issued a joint statement calling the churches and ecumenical actors to commit themselves to support one another in prayers and actions to support Christian presence and witness in the Middle East.

The conference focused on the theme “Christian presence and witness in the Middle East” was held from 21 to 25 May, organized by the WCC and the Middle East Council of Churches in Beirut, Lebanon.

The statement was an outcome of discussions engaging more than a hundred church leaders and representatives of the ecumenical organizations in the Arab world.

The statement acknowledged the deep-rooted history of Christian presence in the region, efforts for peace in the Israel Palestine conflict, political solutions towards conflict in Syria, and political stability in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, calling the churches to act in unity to address challenges posed by unprecedented political, cultural and historical convulsions in the region.

In this context, the statement called the churches to “continue to be being involved in the building of democratic civil societies, based on the rule of law, social justice and respect for human rights, including religious freedom.”

“This is another time for such action, for a new vision of Christian cooperation in the region, for recommitment to Christian Muslim engagement, for engagement with Jewish partners also working for peace and justice, expressing our Christian vocations by working together to express mutual support and solidarity,” read the statement.

It continued to say that these actions “may help to stem the flow of Christians from the region and to eliminate the barriers to full and meaningful lives for Christians in the countries of the Middle East. In the Middle East, Christians understand that ‘only united can we flourish; divided we perish’.”

At the conference, another statement was released expressing concern over the recent kidnapping of two Syrian Orthodox bishops from Aleppo, Syria in April.

“We pray and hope that their speedy release will strengthen the inter-religious relations and trust that have been built up over centuries in a region that has been and still is an example of diversity and living together in mutual respect,” read the statement.

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran] Church of Norway.