BRUSSELS – The Commission of Catholic Bishops of the European Community (COMECE) and the political groups The European People’s Party and The European Conservatives and Reformists of the European Parliament, organized at the same European Parliament a meeting, held on May 9, dedicated to the ever precarious and dangerous situation in which Christians in the Arab countries find themselves.
Are the expectations of democracy born from the “Arab Spring”, and the respect for human rights and religious minorities realized? This is the central question of the colloquium titled “Christians in the Arab world, a year after the Arab Spring” , held in these days. The objective of the seminar was to gather the members of the European Parliament to understand to what extent the “Arab Spring” has met the time periods to obtain respect for more liberal values like democracy and fundamental human rights.
“The democratization of the Middle East has not brought relief to the people who live in these countries and this is a very bitter truth one year after the Arab Spring. If the EU wants to remain a credible human rights defender, ( …) must take a clear position in defense of the Christians in the Middle East. We insist upon a reaction to every act of discrimination and we expect that this problem is always present in political or business discussions between the EU and the Arab world,” said Konrad Szymanski, MEP of the ECR group.
“A trusting presence”
Representatives of various international organizations such as the association of Pontifical Right Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Open Doors International, and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, spoke on the situation of Christians in the Arab world. Other major Christian witnesses who live and work in the Middle East, as Archbishop Samir Nassar, Maronite Archbishop of Damascus (Syria), Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM, Custos of the Holy Land, participated in the symposium. “After the change that has taken place in Egypt, the situation in which Syria finds itself indicates unambiguously that it is becoming the panorama in the Middle East. Until one year ago it would have been unthinkable predict similar scenarios,” said Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM, in an appeal to the Agency Fides, on 30 April this year. As regards the role of the Church, Father Pizzaballa said on that occasion: “Remain with the people, welcome and help those in need without distinction of race, religion or nationality. Ensure, by a trusting presence, religious service to the faithful so that they understand the importance of remaining in their own country. This remains the sense of the Franciscan mission”.
It is in this context of a great historical turning point for the Arab world that Pope Benedict XVI will be visiting Lebanon next September, to deliver the apostolic exhortation of the Synod for the Middle East. The Lebanese daily Al Safir has published a summary of the proposal of the new “apostolic exhortation”.