What future for Christians of the Middle East?
USA – University of Notre Dame – On 29 September 2015, His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem, Msgr Fouad Twal, delivered a lecture in the framework of Forum Notre Dame 2015-2016 “Faith, Freedom and Modern World, 50 years after Vatican II”. In his intervention entitled “In whose hands lie the future of Christians of the Middle East?” the Patriarch touched mainly on the hardships Christians of the Middle East go through, facing the uprising politico-religious tensions, and on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In his intervention at Hesburgh Auditorium of the University of Notre Dame, the Patriarch touched on several points, drawing an outline of the situation of Christians of the East, with an attempt to consider their future on this torn land.
The Church of Jerusalem, a church of the Calvary
In the beginning, Mgr Fouad Twal referred to the unstable situation of Christians of the Holy Land. Though Christians may be a minority in the West Bank, he focused on the important role which they play in the field of education, reminding that “Catholics in Palestine own 115 schools, of which some of them host a majority of Muslim students”. Despite that, they are in danger, considering “the treatment inflicted by Israeli bureaucracy as well as the indifference of Muslims towards Christian communities”. He referred to the Church of Jerusalem as being the “Church of the Calvary”, calling on Christians to turn towards the Cross of Christ, towards hope of Resurrection. According to Patriarch Fouad Twal: “despite all sufferings of the Christian communities, it is impossible to live, to love, to work in Jerusalem away from Jesus and the vision of the Cross”. Jesus himself had “prayed, worked and wept in Jerusalem”.
Palestinians, a people that aspires to justice, respect and dignity
His Beatitude put further emphasis in his speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For him, the majority of Palestinians fight for their rights, these same rights which Jews had claimed well before. Palestinians aspire to have a democratic state where justice, respect and dignity would prevail – which is not the case nowadays. He took a pessimistic view as to an imminent 2-state solution, underlining the urgency to break “the cycle of humiliation and violence which is now raging in Palestine”.
Arms traffic: a real boon for the Middle East
According to His Beatitude, one of the hardships which hinders the Middle East from reaching peace is the “unethical policy and dangerous rhetoric of extremism, lack of education and speculations of traffic dealers who contribute to the prevailing disorder in the Middle East’.
In conclusion, the Patriarch spoke with emotion about Arab brothers and sisters, victims of violence, reminding of the fate of some 1 400 000 Syrians and 8 000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan. The road to peace in the Holy Land is still thorny and tough, he said, confirming however his wish to see “a radiant future” in this area of the world.
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