Power, social injustice, the threat of extremism and Christian-Muslim relations will be among the main themes of a conference on the situation of Christians in the Middle East. The conference is set to take place next week in Lebanon.
The international conference will bring together some 150 participants from the Middle East and beyond, representing churches as well as regional and international ecumenical organizations. The event will be held at the Notre-Dame du Mont monastery in Beirut, 21 to 25 May.
Organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) the conference was initiated on a proposal from the MECC’s last general assembly in 2011 and asked to explore issues related to the “Christian presence and witness in the Middle East”.
The WCC Central Committee echoed this concern in 2011 stating that the WCC “has always viewed the Middle East as a region of special interest, being the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity and Islam... Without this Christian presence, the conviviality among peoples from different faiths, cultures, civilizations, which is a sign of God’s love for all humanity, will be endangered.”
“Our living faith has its roots in this land, and is nourished and nurtured by the unbroken witness of the local churches who have their own roots from the apostolic times...,” read the minutes of the WCC Central Committee meeting.
Michel Nseir, programme executive for the WCC special focus on the Middle East, said that ecumenical Christian perspectives and concerns over the importance of the Christian presence in the Middle East differ from those who seek to kindle Islamophobia.
“We are preparing for the WCC’s upcoming assembly; therefore it is especially important to undertake this pilgrimage towards justice and peace with the churches in the Middle East, and address their challenges with a costly solidarity and a genuine ecumenical spirit of unity in action,” he added.
The 10th Assembly of the WCC will focus on the prayer “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”. It will take place in Busan, Republic of Korea, 30 October to 8 November.
Among the speakers will be Tarek Mitri, a former Lebanese cabinet minister, Afif Safieh, a Palestinian diplomat and Samir Morcos, a Coptic former assistant to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja, Nigeria, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit and Father Michel Jalakh, the MECC’s acting general secretary, will also address the conference.
Dr. Peter Makari, Global Ministries' executive for the Middle East and Europe, will attend the conference on behalf of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) which, through Global Ministries, have extensive partner relationships and a long mission history in the region.
WCCprogramme "Churches in the Middle East”