24. 09. 2013 | News, Archive 2013

Amman Conference

Jordanian King: "It is our duty to protect Christians."

International Conference on the future of Christians in the Middle East

(Stuttgart, 24.09.2013) Concern for the future of Christians in the Middle East has become more important than ever for the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS). Two representatives of EMS member churches recently attended an international conference hosted by the Jordanian royal family on the theme of "Challenges facing Arab Christians", namely Dr. Habib Badr, Senior Pastor of the National Evangelical Church in Beirut (NEC) , and Bishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East. In early September the Jordanian King Abdullah II had invited the heads of all Christian churches in the Middle East to Amman in order to discuss with them the challenges facing Christians since the recent upheavals and crises in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and other countries in the region. Representatives of Western churches and international church bodies were also in attendance.

"This was a very good beginning for all parties involved and all the participants are in favour of further cooperation", reported Badr, who is also Vice Chairman of the EMS Mission Council. The conference had helped to make the voice of Christians in the Middle East heard by local governments, the world church, as well as by the international community. Apart from in Lebanon, Christians in the region had not been treated as full citizens of their countries with equal rights. Persecution and violence against Christians had increased since the so-called Arab Spring, and more and more Christians were leaving their home coun-tries. Badr named these specific challenges and wrote, "The future looks unclear, grim and scary." At the conference moderate Muslims, Islam clerics, intellectuals, rulers, governments, leaders and political autho-rities were called upon to take action on behalf of Christians and other minorities. "Christians have always sought to be a serving and productive element in the societies they live in", said Badr.

At the close of the conference King Abdullah II said that he would undertake efforts to promote a dialogue alliance between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East. In this way one could overcome those tendencies which stir up conflicts in the region and contradict its humanitarian and cultural heritage: "Pro-tecting the rights of Christians in the midst of the conflicts convulsing the Middle East, is not a matter of courtesy, but a duty", said the king. The Arab Christians had played a key role in the development of Arab societies and understood better than any others Islam and its true values.

Therefore the Christians could counter the widespread prejudices. "Islam stands for tolerance and mode-ration and rejects extremism and exclusion", said Abdullah II.

The Jordanian royal family has for a long time encouraged dialogue between Christians and Muslims at various levels. The conference in September had been organized by Prince Ghazi bin Mohammad, a cousin of King Abdullah II and his consultant for religious affairs and cultural rights. In 2007 Prince Ghazi, who is a professor of Islamic philosophy at the University of Jordan, also launched the initiative "A Common Word Between Us and You" in which 138 Muslim scholars from all parts of the world signed an open letter to leaders of Christian churches calling for dialogue.

It was now important for the churches to continue to deal with these issues both with each other and also with their Muslim partners, said Badr. "Let us hope and pray for a brighter, more secure and peaceful future ahead for all of us living in this troubled region of the world."

The Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS) is an association of 23 churches and five mission societies from ten countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe working towards global mission and church cooperation. One member of EMS is the Evangelical Association for the Schneller Schools (EVS), which supports two schools in Jordan and Lebanon.

Further information:

Ulrike Schmidt-Hesse, Head of Mission and Partnership in EMS,Tel. +49-711 636 78 33, Email: schmidt-hesse@dont-want-spam.ems-online.org
Katja Dorothea Buck, journalist, Tel. +49-179 5989405, Email: katjabuck@dont-want-spam.yahoo.de
http://www.ems-online.org

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