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ICC Note: Addressing the United Nations, Lebanese Cardinal Rai spoke about the realities confronting Christians in the Middle East. Rather than Christians being treated as a persecuted minority, a group that is somehow alien to the area, he pressed that Christians must be seen as a part of the Middle East fabric. They have suffered alongside of many others in the current hostilities, though often they have been targeted simply because of their religious identity. Yet, the Christian community still has a crucial role to play in the region.
04/10/2014 Middle East (Ecumenical News) – Christians in the Middle East face frequents dangers, are often caught in the crossfire of different conflicts and they are sometimes targeted individually.
But the mainstream Christian leaders there deny they are a minority that is being persecuted as is sometimes the portrayal.
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai spoke at the United Nations in Geneva on “Christians and the Future of the Middle East,” on Wednesday stating that they are an integral part of the social fabric in the region.
“Christians have been living in the Middle East since the dawn of Christianity, 600 years before Islam,” said Rai who is the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East speaking at the Palace of Nations.
His sentiments echo those made by Holy Land Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan who is President of the Lutheran World Federation.
The U.N. lecture was arranged by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s representative at the United Nations in Geneva.
“They have enriched the cultures of the region with their different oriental traditions; that of Alexandria, Antioch, Armenia, Constantinople and the Chaldean tradition, over and above the Roman tradition,” said the Maronite Patriarch.
The lecture followed the April 2 statement by the Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land and the Justice and Peace Committee about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
They noted that in many parts of the Western world “persecution” is the word on many people’s lips.
“It is said that Christians are being persecuted in the Middle East today. However, what is really happening? How should we speak in truth and integrity as Christians and as Church about the suffering and violence that are going on in the region?”
They said, “We must point out that Christians are not the only victims of this violence and savagery. Secular Muslims, all those defined as ‘heretic’, ‘schismatic’ or simply ‘non-conformist’ are being attacked and murdered in the prevailing chaos.
“In areas where Sunni extremists dominate, Shiites are being slaughtered. In areas where Shiite extremists dominate, Sunnis are being killed.
“Yes, the Christians are at times targeted precisely because they are Christians, having a different set of beliefs and unprotected. However they fall victim alongside many others who are suffering and dying in these times of death and destruction.”

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