“The violence needs to stop!”
ROME – A summit on Christians in the Middle East and the threats they face, called for by Pope Francis, was held from October 2-4, 2014 and brought together key leaders of the Curia Congregations and Apostolic Nuncios in Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Egypt and Turkey. They all reiterated their commitment to support Christians and asked the support of the international community.
On October 2, the Pope himself received, in the library of the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Bishops called for this meeting of greatest importance. He recalled that prayer is the first support for Christians and other religious minorities who suffer facing the threat of the Islamic State (IS).
In a press conference, Father Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, reported that the Holy Father “is focused on the arms trade issue, which is at the root of so many problems, and humanitarian tragedy where so many people are forced to leave their country.” Pope Francis also wants “initiatives and measures at different levels, to demonstrate the solidarity of the whole Church with the Christians of the Middle East and to involve the international community and all people of good will.”
Among those with whom the nuncios are consulting are officials from the Secretariat of State and the heads of dicasteries directly involved in the crisis. The issues of humanitarian assistance and interreligious dialogue – mostly Christian-Muslim – were addressed. “After having examined the dramatic humanitarian situation, and its consequences suffered, among others, by the many internally displaced persons and the refugees in other countries, they underlined the pressing necessity of guaranteeing to all persons, without discrimination, the much needed humanitarian assistance,” declares the final statement of the meeting. “The situation of violence, which we risk becoming accustomed to, and taking for granted as an item of daily news, needs to stop.”
Maintain a presence in the Middle East
Attentive to preserving a coexistence of Christians and Muslims that has lasted fourteen centuries, the meeting participants still remember that “religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim, should play an important role by cooperating together in promoting dialogue and education for the fostering of mutual understanding, and in denouncing clearly the instrumentalization of religion to justify violence.”
The statement continues: “One cannot resign oneself to conceiving the Middle East without Christians, who for two thousand years have confessed the name of Jesus. They want to continue contributing to the good of society, integrated, as full citizens, in the social, cultural and religious life of the nations to which they belong. In them they play a fundamental role of peacemaking, of reconciliation, and of development.”
Concrete steps must be taken urgently. The Church is determined to act without waiting for the situation to witness further massacres are perpetrated, hoping at the same time for the support of the international community. The Nuncios will have the responsibility of strongly proclaiming the mission to various governments.
Pierre Loup de Raucourt