Award given to Fr Samir Khalil Samir, bridge builder between Islam and Christianity
The Egyptian Jesuit is a great expert in the Arab Christian heritage. The Germany-based Stephanus Foundation recognised him it because he “paved the way to a new self-confidence of the oppressed and persecuted”. For Fr Samir, “A global peace without peace between religions is not possible.”
Frankfurt (AsiaNews) – Fr Samir Khalil Samir, an Egyptian Jesuit and internationally renowned scholar, is this year’s recipient of the special award of the Stephanus Foundation for Persecuted Christians.
The Foundation, through its chairperson Michaela Koller, decided to honour Fr Samir because of his service to the spiritual heritage of Arab Christians.
"Father Samir has paved the way to a new self-confidence of the oppressed and persecuted not only through his research, but also through his appearance in the media and [his interaction with] personalities from politics, church and society," emphasised Koller.
The award ceremony took place last Saturday (21 July) in the rococo Hall of Mirrors, in the Residenz Eichstätt, the former residence of the local Prince-Bishops, in Eichstätt, Bavaria.
Born in 1938, Fr Samir is a world expert on Islamic-Christian dialogue. A symposium was recently held in the Vatican, centred on his work and research, to honour him.
In 1986, he founded the CEDRAC, the Centre de documentation et de recherches arabes chrétiennes (Research and Documentation Centre on Arab Christianity).
In 2015 he headed the Pontifical Oriental Institute (Pontificio Istituto Orientale, PIO) in Rome. In his long career, he has published more than 60 books and over 1,500 articles.
Speaking to a local paper in Bavaria, the Jesuit called for more courage for dialogue.
"The concepts of Christianity and Islam are fundamentally different," he explained. Despite all violence, we should never forget to regard Muslims as brothers and sisters and to work for peace.
Fr Samir also warned against secular concepts in Europe that deny the formative role of Christianity.
According to Archimandrite Andreas-Abraham Thiermeyer, Fr Samir has shown fearlessness and clarity, especially when he called on imams to express a clear opinion against the atrocities perpetrated by the terrorist Islamic State group.
Father Samir's message to the West, which he has spread in numerous media commentaries and interviews, is also clear: "Pay attention to human rights, to religious freedom, it is an irrevocable fundamental right. It is the ‘litmus test’ for all other freedoms.”
At the same time, “A global peace without peace between religions is not possible. Do not forget the Christians and their merits in the Near and Middle East. You must speak out for their rights."
In recent years, the award was given to other prominent Church figures, including Card Louis Raphael I. Sako, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans (Iraq), and Card Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, who dedicated the award to China’s persecuted Christians.