Middle East Churches calls for peace and an end to arms sales

The 11th General Assembly of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) ended in Amman yesterday. Christian leaders call for an end to arms sales and support for Mosul refugees. Muslims are called upon to build a safe environment. Jordan is an example of religious freedom.

Amman (AsiaNews) – The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) held its 11th General Assembly in Amman, Jordan. At the end of the three-day meeting (6-9 September), the Council released a statement.

The latter calls for an end to weapons sales to terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq, and for actions to find a peaceful resolution of the conflict. It also calls for support to the displaced, especially Christians who fled their homes and lands to escape war and persecution, with special attention for refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh plain, for whom efforts must me made to secure their return.

Participants slammed all forms of extremism, terrorism and sought cooperation of Muslims – as well as regional and international political leaders – to create a safe environment free from harassment.

This includes acknowledging the role of Jordan and the Hashemite monarchy in promoting pluralism and multiculturalism. Jordan is a model and an example for the Middle East.

Some 22 leaders and representatives from the region’s main churches took part in the event, hosted by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. They included the Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis Sako (a new council president for the next four years), the Archbishop Emeritus of Jerusalem of the Latins Fouad Twal, the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignace Youssif III, the Greek Melkite Patriarch Gregory III, Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros II, Armenian Catholicos Aram I, and Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch Yohanna X.

The General Assembly, which began on Wednesday, took its title from Psalm 118 – "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his mercy endures forever” – a warning and a call to all Christians, especially in the Middle East, to be the instrument of mercy wherever there is violence, abuse, war and despair.

The final statement also refers to the election of the Lebanese President (a position that falls to a Christian but has been vacant for more than two years), to a solution to the Palestinian crisis and a call for the liberation of Bishops Youhanna Ibrahim and Boulos to -Yaziji, abducted three years ago in Syria.

The choice of Jordan as the host country for the summit of the region’s Churches confirms the leading role played by the Hashemite kingdom in protecting holy places and defending religious freedom.

King Abdullah II himself met Christian religious leaders at Al Husseiniya Palace, noting that Jordan had become a model for coexistence, fraternity and moderation.

Arabs, whether Muslims or Christians, face the same challenges in light of the current situation in the region, and share the responsibility in addressing these challenges.

"Christians in the Arab world are an integral part of the Arab social fabric and protecting their rights is a duty of all," the king said.

Coptic Pope Tawadros II said that Muslims and Christians should work together in order to spread love and peace in the Middle East. The Coptic leader added that the Church should perform its role in serving the homeland.

Orthodox Church Patriarch Theophilos III said that Christian leaders must “mobilize the world opinion” to protect “the Christians of the Middle East in order to encourage them to remain in their homelands”.

The presence of the Christians is threatened by migration and forced displacement, he noted.

Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem of the Latins Fouad Twal stressed the need for Christians “to strive for unity in order to overcome the human threats and spread the culture of love and peace.” Indeed, “Joint efforts make a difficult job easier and make a huge difference,” Patriarch Twal said.

Finally, Chaldean primate Mar Raphael Louis Sako suggested the creation of a commission of politicians and legal experts to investigate the events in the region and provide clear visions and solutions for the future. He also called for the appointment of a high-level delegation to interact with Muslim religious authorities.

On the final day, the assembled prelates elected the presidents of the different denominations that make up MECC. For the Catholic group, the choice fell on Mar Sako.

Established in 1974 in Nicosia, capital of Cyprus, the Middle East Council of Churches is now headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon.

Its aims are to promote convergence among the region’s Christian communities on issues of common interest and encourage the overcoming of divisions and sectarian conflicts.