Mideast patriarchs: Instability must end if Christians are to remain
By Michael Hirst
Catholic News Service
BEIRUT , Lebanon (CNS) — Catholic patriarchs of the Middle East said political instability across the region must be tackled if the current Christian exodus is to be stemmed.
The negative impact of this instability on local economies and services, as well as on the psychology within communities, are key factors driving Christians away from the region, said the council of Catholic patriarchs.
The council’s 16th assembly closed Oct. 20 in Bzommar, near Beirut , with a statement focusing on the dwindling presence of Christians in Lebanon , Israel and the Palestinian territories, Iraq and the wider region.
The statement said that Eastern Christian churches acted as a bridge between Western Christianity and Islam, creating an avenue for dialogue between the faiths. The Christian leaders were adamant that this link should not be broken.
Despite this summer’s 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Islamic militant group, the patriarchs said Lebanon “remains a source of hope” that “must play an effective role” in solidifying the coexistence of religions in the Middle East .
“Our message is in the first place that of safeguarding coexistence in the face of aggravating conflict of cultures and religions,” said the patriarchs. The meeting included the Eastern Catholic patriarchs of the Maronite, Coptic, Melkite, Syrian, Armenian and Chaldean churches and the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem.
Emphasizing the need to promote dialogue among religions across the region, the patriarchs expressed their “solidarity with the Islamic world in its efforts to consolidate peace and eradicate violence.”
Calling on Muslim organizations to “vigorously condemn terrorist actions committed, at times, in the name of the Muslim faith,” the patriarchs added: “We know that the true Islam and the Quran are innocent of any violence. These actions do not only harm Islam, but they also destroy (the) coexistence that has been there for so many generations, especially in Iraq.”