06/04/2010, 00.00
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Synod for Middle East Churches: the common commitment of Iraqi Catholics and Orthodox

by Layla Yousif Rahema
From May 26 to 27, priests and bishops of the Eastern Churches met in Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan to discuss the common challenges of Catholics and Orthodox in view of the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. Main theme of the meeting, the exodus of Christians that affects both communities and is ignored by the West.

Sulaymaniyah (AsiaNews) - More cooperation between the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches faced with common challenges such as migration. Develop joint strategies with the Muslims to find answers to 'political Islam'. Promote more active involvement of Christians in the public life of their countries. These are some of the challenges that have arisen from an "ecumenical seminar" held by the Pro Oriente Foundation in the Chaldean parish of Sulaymaniyah, Kurdistan, May 26 and 27 last.  The objective of the meeting, which was attended by all members of the Forum Siriacum was the preparation for the upcoming Synod of Bishops for the Middle East. Archbishops, priests and religious from the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syrian Catholic, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Orthodox churches arrived in the parish in northern Iraq at the invitation of the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, Msgr. Louis Sako.

The concluding document of the meeting outlined some goals in the implementation of communion between the Churches and to continue a fruitful witness in the Islamic world.  The first issue to be highlighted was the need to include members invited by the Orthodox Churches as real "participants in the activities of the Synod and not just fraternal delegates”. T he reason is simple: "The challenges to the Eastern Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, are common. One above all, the "mass emigration of Christians from the Middle East." In this regard, participants stressed the importance of "raising awareness of the plight of Christians in the Middle East to the West", who today meet with "ignorance and indifference." "A joint witness becomes communion between the Churches, this is why a positive step forward would be to adopt" textbooks and common pastoral activities. "

There is also the need for common mission with Muslims to fight "the growing political and extremist interpretation of Islam."  Educational institutions play a fundamental role in this by "promoting a culture of coexistence, mutual respect and understanding."  Of equal importance are the "inter-religious meetings of leaders not only internationally but also and especially on regional and local levels". Finally, the media as an "effective tool to promote the right image of Christianity".  "It must be clear that some movements of Western evangelical Christians give a distorted picture of Christianity."

The desire of the participants at the Sulaymaniyah meeting is to organize a meeting six months or a year from the Synod to verify that the decisions made are also applied: "Too many times in the past, there have been beautiful resolutions that were never put into practice” .  

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