A Christian-Muslim consultation on the Christian presence and witness in the Middle East took place at the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon, from 24-28 January 2012.
The consultation dealt with issues and challenges facing the Christian communities at this critical juncture in the history of the Arab World. It also explored the effective ways and means of deepening Christian-Muslim coexistence and collaboration as partners in building democratic societies. A general report appeared on Ekklesia here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16166
The consultation was organised by the Geneva-based World Council of Churches in collaboration with the Beirut-based Middle East Council of Churches. More than fifty persons, comprising Christian and Muslim spiritual leaders, intellectuals and actors of civil society took part in this event. A number of ecumenical partners from Europe and the USA also attended it in order to discuss the imperatives of Christian-Muslim dialogue in this volatile and uncertain part of the world (often known as the Middle East and North Africa) and to affirm the need for a deeper sense of engagement between the two faiths.
At the opening session, His Holiness Aram I spoke powerfully about the realities of Christians in the region as well as the way forward for communities of faith. In challenging and contextual remarks, he affirmed that “the Christian communities in the Arab World must engage in dialogue with all trends of Islam which advocate democracy, coexistence and non-violence”
Also attending the consultation were the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC General Secretary, Dr Mohammad Sammak, General Secretary of the Christian-Muslim Dialogue Committee, Dr Paul Rouhanna, MECC General Secretary and HB Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah of the Latin-rite Catholic Church. In his own intervention, the WCC General Secretary reaffirmed churches’ commitment to justice and peace in the Middle East, while stressing the importance of a common vision for living together by Christians and Muslims in the Arab world.
The two You-Tube links here represent together the 16-minute opening presentation by HH Aram I that drew the roadmap for the future of the conference – and in one sense perhaps the region too.
© Harry Hagopian is an international lawyer, ecumenist and EU political consultant. He also acts as a Middle East and inter-faith advisor to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and as Middle East consultant to ACEP (Christians in Politics) in Paris. He is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor (http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/HarryHagopian). Formerly an Executive Secretary of the Jerusalem Inter-Church Committee and Executive Director of the Middle East Council of Churches, he is now an international fellow, Sorbonne III University, Paris, consultant to the Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (UK) and author of The Armenian Church in the Holy Land. Dr Hagopian’s own website is www.epektasis.net