How do Christians of the East view the future? This is the question that many find hard to answer, while many others keep pondering the prevailing situation and wondering about the future awaiting the Christians of the East particularly with the eruption of what is termed as “the Arab Spring” over a decade ago that wreaked extensive havoc in several Arab and Middle Eastern countries, and snowballed into millions of people leaving the countries of their ancestors where hope is waning to a minimum, while seeking a new life in other countries with the hope that they would find a better future for them and their children.
This intriguing question was delved into in a recent article, ranked as being of cardinal importance, written by Director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan (CCSM) Fr. Dr. Rif’at Bader (en.abouna.org/abouna-opinion/ten-years-after-apostolic-exhortation-how-do-christians-east-view-future.) This article dots the “I”s and crosses all the “t”s regarding finding valid answers to this question.
This article, which is worth to be reviewed in depth and to be used as a point of reference, maps out a solution for the intricate problems brewing in the Middle East, and helps find valid points that ought to be followed in order to ensure a life crowned by common living, equality based on citizenship, and prosperity with a view on having all members of society work hand-in-hand for the progress of societies everywhere.
In his article, Fr. Bader quotes the most important contents of the Pope Benedict XVI Apostolic Exhortation which he signed in St. Paul’s Church in Harissa, Lebanon, on September 14, 2012 titled, “The Church in the Middle East, Partnership and Testimony”, namely “the Middle East without Christians or with a small number of them, is not the Middle East”, and that “religious freedom, which is degree more advanced than tolerance, is the crown of all freedoms.”
Fr. Bader reviews the situation of Christians of the East by briefly referring to the acts of restriction, constraint, and forced displacement, experienced against them by setting the case of the Christians of Mosul as a model. He adds, “Throughout the past ages, Christians have been subjected to numerous harassment, including the scourge to which their societies were subjected that snowballed into calamities and a sharp drop in their numbers. Yet, the Christians remain ‘the light of the East’ and ‘the salt of Earth’, according to the words of Lord Jesus Christ, as they remain distinguished by their sweet and nice fragrance, while maintaining their clear and venerable contributions in all fields.”
Reflecting on the future that awaits Christians of the East, Fr. Bader presents several points that unveil the future on which the presence of Christians in the East will be built. Among the most outstanding points he mentions are the indication that the future is built by preserving plurality, including the religious aspect, and viewing the East as the vessel that encompasses pluralism; the future is based on the continuous enhancement of the values of equality and citizenship; the future is based on promoting positive experience in our dear East, including the Jordanian experience in which Christians and Muslims work hand-in-hand as one family striving for the betterment of the joint community; the future depends on maintaining contacts and extending bridges of affection and cooperation among the Christians of the East who remained in their native countries and their brethren who emigrated whether it was either voluntary or based on forced displacement; the future needs consolidating the ecumenical effort (or unity among the Churches), so as to be in unison; the future needs the elimination of sectarian fanaticism among the various Churches; and the need to ensure cooperation with the Christians of the West and with financial support for the projects carried out by the Churches of the East.
Fr. Bader regrets the fact that the Christians of the East have become fragmented and immersed in securing a living just likening the situation in their societies, while they view the future with eyes full of grace. This article raises a hue and a cry about the dangers lurking in the horizon which calls for effecting immediate measures that heal social diseases afflicting the region.
In this regard, Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, has repeatedly set the alarm bells ringing, and decried the prevailing situation of the Christian Iraqis while warning of the risk of Christians disappearing from Iraq as they continue to face hardships and discrimination.
He questioned, “Do we run the risk of finding a Middle East without a Christian presence?”He reflected on the situation of the Christian communities in the Holy Land with an overview of the situation in the Christian communities in the Middle East which indicates that their situation is deteriorating rapidly.
It is regrettable to note that with the prevailing state of instability and economic crises in the Middle East, Christians have been the first people to leave based on the fact that they are the most vulnerable minority, thus they are often forced to pack their bags when problems arise and leave for good.
Immediate actions are urgently needed to deal with the suffering of Christians which has been so long, restore their harmed dignity in their mother homeland, and ensure them concrete steps in all walks of life that guarantee them a bright and promising future in their mother homelands.
It is undeniable that the Catholic Church has been playing a key and invaluable role in preserving the Christian presence in the Holy Land by undertaking several means and projects in the fields of health and education that enroot their constructive and civilized role in the region, yet much work is still needed from other civic and governmental parties in this regard so as to preserve the beauty of mosaic diversity that has been beautifying the region over the years.
It is hoped that world leaders–who are embroiled in the imbroglios of wars, famine, armament, and climate change–will soon divert attention towards the dire situation experienced by Christians of the East before it is too late so that all people in the region will automatically find opportune time to rebuild torn down societies and work for the benefit of everybody.
By Munir Bayouk/ en.abouna.org