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CHRISTIANITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST: ANCIENT YET EVER NEW
Christian Arab and Middle Eastern Churches Together (CAMECT) and Telelumiere/Noursat, the largest Arabic broadcasting Christian I television network, jointly organized a Symposium “Christianity in the Middle East: Ancient Yet Ever New” on February 20-22, 2009, hosted by the Chaldean Catholic Church of Detroit. The Symposium focused on the Christian contribution to the life of the Middle East, especially, schools, monasteries, hospitals, social charities, ecumenism, interfaith dialogue and work for peace and justice.
Press Release Reprinted from Sophia, Winter 2009
A bell of warning was tolled that the Middle Eastern Christians are now only about 7 percent of the total population of the region. The majority lives in Egypt and Lebanon while some live in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Israel, Jordan and Palestinian territories. In almost all places in the Middle East they are minorities.
Most of the Middle Eastern Churches have dioceses or sister churches in the United States and throughout the world. In this connection, the participants expressed the opinion that the religions of the Middle East are not only Judaism and Islam. For that reason, participants pointed out that there is a great need to inform the American public that Middle Eastern Christians continue to exist as one of the important religious communities of that region, that despite their sufferings, the Holy Spirit helps them survive and witness to Christ. Participants appealed to all to support the continuing presence of Christians in the region and their efforts to live and prosper in peace.
Christians have made and continue to make important contributions to the development of Middle Eastern culture; they promote a significant spiritual climate through monasticism, they provide through schools and universities a good education, they care for the sick through hospitals and clinics and they render generous service to the poor, Christians and non Christians alike, and in the 20th Century, they promoted the movement of Christian Unity, which became a sign of hope for the unity of all peoples and nations.
At one point, the participants addressed the present politico-religious challenges making many Middle East Christians leave the Middle East because they are losing hope in the future. Nonetheless, it was recognized that the Christians want to continue to live in their motherland and witness to the region where Jesus was born and where Christianity has been rooted for the last 2000 years. To be able to promote love and peace between all peoples, they want to find with Jews and Muslims a formula that is neither secular, nor ethnocentric, nor theocratic, but respects religion and guarantees plurality, equality and freedom.
Middle East Christians are increasingly focusing on inter-religious collaboration in promoting dialogue instead of conflict and in finding with others, the proper solution to the present ideological and spiritual crises in their region. Their hope is also to promote peace in order to secure common living between all human beings who have been created in “the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:27).
At the end of the Symposium, the panelists agreed that all efforts in the United States as well as abroad should focus on four areas of support of the Christians of the Middle East:
US officials, organizations and individuals should financially support Christian institutions, churches, and monasteries. They should invest in the Middle East to create jobs that will keep young people from emigrating overseas. Expatriates should do more to assist their relatives and fellow Christians in their countries of origin.
US Christians are reminded that spreading the Good News is the sacred mission of every Christian. By supporting Noursat, they support the efforts to share the light of Christ in the Middle East. Active collaboration in establishing “Media City” in Lebanon with its three satellite stations, its different offices representing all the Churches of the region, and its extensive archives and media resources will help enhance the attachment of Christians of all nationalities to their homeland.
By petitioning their representatives and officials, Americans can play an active role in influencing their government’s positions in defense of minority rights in the Middle East as well as their human rights.
Christians of the world are encouraged to offer prayer and sacrifice to alleviate the sufferings and hardship their brothers and sisters endure in the Middle East. They should come to a greater appreciation of the fact that Christianity, which began in the Middle East, continues to exist there. A day of prayer for the Christians in the Middle East, perhaps on the Visitation Feast Day (March 25th), may be chosen. Likewise, organizing pilgrimages to the land where Jesus was born will definitely bring together the two wings of Christianity, East and West. Ultimately, Christians must realize that the Bible is not only the printed book but also the way this book is being lived in this world.