Middle East Christians plead for coexistence

Church representatives meeting in Cairo have called for peace and coexistence in the region.

The Executive Council of the Middle East Council of Churches urged “heads of state and religious and political decision-makers in the world, Arabs and Muslims” to work for the preservation of religious pluralism, saying it is “the most precious treasure of the East”. In a statement, they urged them “to face the forces of darkness, destruction and extremism”.

Calling for concrete measures to promote Christian unity such as a common date for Easter celebrations, they stressed that interfaith dialogue is “the essential pillar of relations with our partners and compatriots”.

In the leaders’ concluding statement, they addressed the scourges afflicting many Christian communities throughout the Middle East, ranging from armed conflicts to targeted attacks, persecution and kidnappings. 

Among the issues the leaders discussed and prayed for were the end of war in Syria and Iraq, the refugee crisis and population shifts caused by war in the region, peace in the Holy Land – especially Jerusalem – with a just settlement for the Palestinian cause, the ending of political paralysis and the election of a new president in Lebanon, and an end to the Turkish occupation of Cyprus. 

Thanking Pope Francis for his attention to Christians in the Middle East, the leaders also thanked “all the Middle East states that have taken it upon themselves to welcome families evicted from their homes, provided them with what they need, in particular, schooling for their children”.

Those attending the meeting, hosted by the Coptic Orthodox Church, headed by Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, included Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan; Catholicos Aram of Cilicia, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church; Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem; and Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran Church in the Holy Land.