AMMAN: Fulfilling the wish of His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan, an International Summit will be held in Amman on September 3 and 4. The Summit will discuss and address the issue facing Christian Arabs: wars, bombings, kidnappings, desecration, emigration. It is an occasion for the Eastern Churches to make their voices widely heard on the international arena, at a time of tension and fear of a regional conflagration with the Syrian conflict in the background.
These topics “challenges of Christian Arabs” had been raised on August 29 during the meeting in the Vatican between Pope Francis and King Abdallah II of Jordan, initiator of the initiative (commandeered by Prince Ghazi ben Muhammad, advisor of the Monarch on religious affairs and cultural rights). In the official brochure, the organizers wrote : “the Middle East is the cradle of Christianity, but the recent upheavals have placed the Christian communities face to face with serious challenges in the region.” Consequently, the Conference aims at gathering the Heads of all Christian Churches of the Middle East, in order – as pointed out by the organizers – “to grant them a voice which will be heard worldwide. ” They further indicated that “it’s only in identifying clearly, in discussing and in gathering information that solutions to those challenges may be found in order – God willing – to bolster at all times both the security and prosperity of Christianity in the Middle East, recognized as a fundamental part of the rich fabric of the Middle East”.
No less than 70 Patriarchs, Patriarchal delegates, bishops, priests and other responsible figures of the entire Christian communities of the region will gather over the course of two days, in the framework of various study sessions devoted namely to the recent developments of the situation in Egypt, in Syria, in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Jordan and in Jerusalem. The list of participants is a lengthy one. What is noteworthy – in addition to Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, Head of the Pontifical Council for inter-religious dialogue which represents the Holy See – the presence of H.B. Fouad Twal (Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem), H.B. Theophilos III (Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem), H.B. Nourhanne Manougian (Armenian Orthodox Patriarch). Will be attending as well the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Yohanna X al-Yazigi, residing in Damascus, brother of Metropolitan of Aleppo, kidnapped last April by still unknown elements, together with Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of Aleppo, Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim.
Christians of the Orient hand in hand
Against the backdrop of violence, of which Christians of Egypt, Irak are victims with the Syrian conflict at the heart, the Christians are suffering. The situation in the area is growing more and more tense, the Christian communities share the destiny of everybody when it comes to violence, fighting and attacks and moreover are often disregarded as citizens.
The Heads of the Christian Churches have presented a united front in Lebanon, as regards Iraq, in the Holy Land as regards Syria … in order to face risks threatening their faithful in the case of a foreign armed intervention taking place in Syria. A chain reaction has ensued. The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem wonders about the legitimacy of eventual strikes. The Bishop of Aleppo, Msgr Antoine Audo, alludes to the danger of a “world war” . Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai has accused “countries especially from the West, and also from the East, to stir up all these conflicts”. “We are about to witness the utter destruction of what Christians have been able to build during 1 400 years, in terms of coexistence with Moslems”, he said. And in the same breath, Iraqi Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, denounces an action that is likely “to blow up a volcano involving Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine. Maybe someone wants precisely that to happen.” The fear of recurrence of the Iraqi scenario is brought up at every occasion , as well as the loss of secularism which has made coexistence in the Middle East livable.
Hand in hand, from the whole Middle East, the Churches have nurtured the feeling of support following the call of the Pope for a day of fasting and prayer on September 7. Vatican Agency Fides reports that the call “has opened out the hearts at all levels, with Bishops and with simple faithful. The Christian communities in Syria, in the Middle East and in the diaspora feel gratified and are getting ready to unite in fasting and in prayer”.
By: Christophe Lafontaine