Christian Presence in the Middle East

Christian Presence in the Middle East

 

An important gathering took place in Lebanon last week, organised by theMiddle East Council of Churches (a partner organisation of the Methodist Church in Britain) and including leaders from Christian Churches of the Middle East and 34 other countries, includingChurches Together in Britain and Ireland, which was represented by their new Director of World Programmes, Christine Elliott.

The final statementis an impressive and significant document which suggest that the World Church is currently seeing a Kairos moment for prophetic action as it did in South Africa in 1985 and Palestine in 2009,  a time, 'for a new vision of Christian cooperation in the region, for recommitment to Christian Muslim engagement, for engagement with Jewish partners also working for peace and justice, expressing our Christian vocations by working together to express mutual support and solidarity, all of which may help to stem the flow of Christians from the region and to eliminate the barriers to full and meaningful lives for Christians in the countries of the Middle East. In the Middle East, Christians understand that "only united can we flourish; divided we perish."'

There are many facets to thecall for actionincluded in the statement, to some of which the Methodist Church will hope to respond in a practical way, including offers within our grants and scholarship programmes, in prayer, advocacy and education.

Some examples of the actions requested are quoted below many of which must prompt us to individual and collective responses:

  • international advocacy on behalf of the Christians in the region,
  • theological exchange with ecumenical partners,
  • amplifying the voices of the Christians in the Middle East,
  • exchange programs to facilitate the sharing of experiences, information on interfaith relations and dialogue among the churches and religions.
  • encourage and facilitate responsible pilgrimage to the region.
  • advocacy on a regional and international level on behalf of the Christians in the Middle East, continuing programmes that enhance those efforts (for example, Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum and Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel).
  • advocacy for all oppressed and marginalized persons in the region.

 

On education:'Encourage member churches to develop and disseminate educational materials that accurately

reflect the geography and history of the Middle East and the realities of sister churches located

there. '

 

On Syria:'Communicate, with ecumenical partners, the dire humanitarian situation within Syria and suffered

by refugees from Syria in neighbouring countries, appealing to WCC member churches to interpret

their relief policies in ways that deliver resources to the most vulnerable. Seek ways to exert

pressure to stop actions of violence. '

 

On Iran: 'Encourage WCC member churches to support measures both to prevent war and to open channels

for citizen diplomacy and mutual understanding with Iran. WCC member churches should explore

ways to visit their contexts and remain in fellowship with them.'

 

On Iraq:'Encourage WCC member churches to support the churches in Iraq by visiting them in their contexts

and remaining in active fellowship with them.'

 

On Jerusalem:'Advocate that churches and nations around the globe ensure that Jerusalem is established as a city of two peoples and three religions with unrestricted and free access for all humankind.'

 

On weapons in the region:'Advocate for a nuclear-free Middle East. Caution and work against any kind of escalation of tensions in the region.'

 

On political action:'Encourage the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia, along with other countries in positions of political power, to create policies that promote peace with justice for all

peoples of the region. … Explore ways to attract resources to the region in order to provide quality education, development employment opportunities, including especially decent work for young people, which would counter socioeconomic pushes to emigrate from the Middle East.'

 

On the importance of inter-faith work:'Use re-envisioned instruments of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation to raise awareness among Muslim and Christian leaders.'

 

Read the full statement here: Statement on Christian presence and witness

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