Cardinal Foley on Christians in the Holy Land

“A Source of Hope for Understanding, Peace and Reconciliation”

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OSLO, Norway, DEC. 7, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Cardinal John Foley, the grand knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, delivered Friday at a conference at the Norwegian School of Theology in Oslo on “The Exodus of Christians from the Holy Land: A Challenge for a Sustainable Peace.”

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Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

First of all, let me apologize. This conference had first been organized for last May — but then the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI decided to visit the Holy Land at that time and I was invited to accompany him — an invitation one does not decline.

I have been in Oslo in June — when there is sunlight and indeed warmth for at least twenty hours every day, and I had looking forward to visiting Oslo in May.

But then the conference was rescheduled for December — when there are not twenty hours of light every day, not to mention warmth, but at least there are no distractions from the subject at hand.

After my apology, I want to express my thanks — thanks to the leadership of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem here in Norway: Bishop Bernt Eidsvig, Bishop of Oslo, and Father Arne Marco Kirsebom, Grand Prior of the Order here;, and Knut Arstad, our Order’s Magistral Delegate here in Norway.

I should offer a word of explanation. As many of you may already know, the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem is one of two Orders of chivalry recognized by the Catholic Church, the other being the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. While the Order dates from the early medieval period, the time of the Crusades, it was resuscitated by Pope Pius IX in 1847 to help the members of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The aim of Pope Pius IX, as it is our aim, was to insure that the Holy Land, where Jesus lived, died, was buried and rose from the dead, would not become merely a museum of sacred places but would remain a place of living stones, a place of vibrant Christian communities in the midst of a not always welcoming environment.

Our Order, which numbers more than 26,000 members worldwide, is organized into fifty-three regional jurisdictions, or lieutenancies, and this magistral delegation of Norway — not yet quite a lieutenancy — is one of our newest jurisdictions.

It is reassuring to know that — since the year 2000 — the Order has provided more than $50 million in assistance not only to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem but also to other Catholic, ecumenical and indeed interreligious initiatives in the area made up of Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and Cyprus. It is important to note that the schools, hospitals and socials centers sponsored by our Order are open to all.

By the way, at least four members of the Magisterial Delegation of Norway were able to join Pope Benedict XVI on his historic pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and they also saw some of the parishes which put to good use the assistance provided by our Order.

I want to thank also the directors of this Norwegian School of Theology for sponsoring this conference and Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme of the Church of Norway and his associates for their kind hospitality and support.

Finally, let me thank very much for his presence and participation the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, the general secretary-elect of the World Council of Churches. Congratulations on your election! It is a deservedly little known footnote to ecumenical history that I wrote the first article for American Catholic newspapers on the World Council of Churches in 1965 after a visit to Geneva after the third session of the Second Vatican Council. I pray that we may continue to work together for greater mutual understanding and cooperation. May God truly bless you in your new work!

Frankly, I think we share together a concern about the continued exodus of Christians from the Holy Land, the land of Our Lord, but also a land sacred to the members of two other great religions, Judaism and Islam.

It is said that sixty years ago, twenty per cent of the population of the Holy Land was Christian: Orthodox, Catholic — of various rites, Lutheran, Anglican and a few other Protestants.

Now it is said that less than two per cent of the population in the same area is Christian.

Percentages do not tell the entire story, however. Because of Jewish immigration since 1948 and also since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the population of Israel has increased greatly. Because of the influx of refugees into the West Bank or Palestinian Territories and into Jordan as a result of the Israeli-Arab conflicts in 1948 and 1967 and as a result of conflicts in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon, the population — overwhelmingly Moslem — has increased greatly. It also appears to be a demographic fact that Moslems — whether in Israel, the Palestinian Territories or Jordan — are inclined to have more children.

This last fact is a preoccupation for the authorities in Israel, because it appears to put at risk their declared policy to be a Jewish state. In fact, the present foreign minister of Israel had been quoted, before he assumed his present office, of favoring the departure from Israel of its Palestinian citizens. Thank God that no such action has been taken, but it does contribute to a feeling of insecurity and indeed of second-class citizenship on the part of the non-Jewish citizens of Israel.

On the other hand, on the occasion of the already mentioned visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Holy Land, leaders in Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and Israel assured me that the Catholic schools in all three areas created enormously to a spirit of cooperation and of mutual understanding and respect were centers of great hope for peace in the area.

Thus, I think that we can say without qualification that the presence of Christians in the Holy Land today is a source of hope for understanding, peace and reconciliation.

Citation of Monsignor Robert L. Stern, secretary-general of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and president of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine: “Monsignor, you have to understand that in our part of the world numbers have a very symbolic value.”

This is a polite way of saying that we assert certain numbers that may or may not correspond to the reality. There are few really reliable statistics about Middle East country populations, with the possible exception of the State of Israel, which is quite good about maintaining accurate census data.

Right now in the State of Israel, out of a population which, as of October 2008, numbers 7,337,000 people, there are 147,000 Christians, approximately 2% of the population. Israeli citizens who are Christians are for the most part Arabs. What this ignores is more than 300,000 people who have entered the State of Israel according to the Law of Return, who are officially classified as not-Jewish.

So, what are they? Generally they are people from Eastern Europe who have emerged from the Marxist world, but whose family background probably is Orthodox Christian. This is another number that could be quoted, but the whole structure of the church in Israel is based on the native population, which is Arab. In addition, of course, there are many guest workers, especially from the Philippines, of whom the majority are Catholic.

In Palestine, that is to say the West Bank and Gaza, the occupied territories with their limited degree of Palestinian autonomy, there are approximately 3,800,000 people. And, at maximum, I think the Christians, not Catholics but all the Christians, are about 40,000 or 1%. So, in the entire traditional Holy Land area you are looking at a population of over 10,000,000 people, and a total Christian population of less than 200,000, the smallest percentage of Christians of any country in the region.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has about 6,000,000 people now with so many refugees there and perhaps 250,000 Christians of all denominations, about 4% of the popul
ation. Roughly speaking, in that part of the world I think you could say that close to 1/3 of the Christians are Latin (Roman) Catholic, 1/3 Melkite Greek Catholic, and more than 1/3 Greek Orthodox. There are also smaller numbers of other Catholics and Orthodox denominations. The large players, so to speak, are these Latin and Greek Catholics and the Greek Orthodox.

Lebanon has a population of about 3,900,000 people, and the Christian population is down to about 1,170,000 or 30% Christian, mostly Maronite Catholics. On the other hand, when Lebanon was organized and made independent by the French it was majority Christian.

Syria has somewhat under 20,000,000 people and somewhat under 2,000,000, about 1,850,000, are Christian; that’s 9.4% of the Syrian population. Iraq has somewhat over 28,000,000 people; the most generous estimate would be that there are 760,000 Christians left; that would be 2.7% of the population, but the real numbers are probably less.

Egypt has 81,700,000 people and a rapidly growing population; 10% are classically said to be Coptic, that is to say, Coptic Orthodox. The presence of Roman Catholics is almost only the religious who work in the different institutions.

That’s a static view of the Christian population of the Middle East.

Dynamic view: sociological trends. If you look at the situation from a dynamic viewpoint, that is to say, in motion, you have to ask, “Where is it coming from and where does it seem to be going?” Well, since the end of the First World War — which ended the 400 hundred year Ottoman Turkish hegemony over that part of the world — during this past century, proportionately, Christians are declining everywhere. You can look at the number of Christians in Jerusalem a hundred years ago and today, in Persia a hundred years ago and today, in Damascus a hundred years ago and today — the easiest way of describing it is a tremendous reduction in the proportion of Christians and, for the most part, even in the absolute number of Christians.

What are the reasons? First of all, Christians tend to be very well educated compared to the majority of the population, and, as we all know, it seems that the higher the level of education and economic opportunity of the family, the smaller the family size. So you have declining birth rates among Christians. On the other hand, in the less developed sectors economically or in the more conservative religious sectors you see a large family growth. For example, the ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel and the very strong Muslims throughout the region have a much higher birth rate. Another reason, of course, is emigration. Christians are leaving the Holy Land, leaving the Arab world, leaving the Middle East.

Why? First of all, because socially, among Christians, there is a sense of exclusion, if not discrimination, in many countries. There are some people who like to talk about the persecution of Christians. I think that that is a bit of an exaggeration, but that there is discrimination in Muslim countries is absolutely incontestable; it just varies from country to country. Certainly, in a large country like Egypt, there have been distinguished Christian ministers like Boutros Boutros-Ghali, but generally speaking the higher levels of the political and social order are reserved for Muslims; it’s a fact of life.

So, you have this phenomenon, in terms of trends, of rapidly declining Christian populations, not only in the Holy Land, but throughout the entire Middle East. Some sources project that it is likely that the total Christian population of the Arab world will be as low as 6,000,000 within the next 15 to 20 years at the rate things are going. I’m abstaining from saying “good” or “bad,” I’m just trying to be dispassionate as the sociologists would look at it and say these are the population trends.

Long-term (historical) perspective

If you would be patient with me, I would like to look at very long-term trends, because an historical perspective is very useful for assessing the present. So, I would like to make a overview of the past 2000 years.

Early Christianity. When Christianity started in what we call the Holy Land, it was a branch of Judaism. It was a Jewish sect and it had an ethnic identity. The first Christians were Jews. Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Apostles were all Jews, Messianic Jews. The political world in which they lived was under the control of the pagan Roman Empire.

But, within a very short time the crisis of these early Christian communities was, “Are we going to be Jewish, or not?” Once they started to admit pagans, that was the breaking point with Judaism. Christianity then became, let us say, a transnational movement, because Christians didn’t have to belong to a particular tribe, ethnic group, or political body. This was very, very radical because religion was a component of the political order everywhere. Within a short time, early Christianity was a movement that didn’t have national or ethnic boundaries. In Christ, as St. Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” This was a very radical aspect of Christianity.

Christianity rapidly spread within the pagan Roman Empire and outside the pagan Roman Empire. And basically, since the Christians didn’t accept the religions of the lands in which they lived, they were seen as somewhat subversive. In fact, in Rome they were killed because they weren’t politically correct, they didn’t offer the sacrifices to the gods of the State. Christians refused to accommodate themselves to the state religion of Rome, or the state religion of Persia, or the state religion of any other place.

The established religion of the Roman Empire. Within a few hundred years, a radical change came. For better or for worse, Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire. By the end of the 4th century, Christianity was the imperial state religion. So then, what happened to this transnational movement? It became the established religion. And outside of the Roman Empire it was perceived as the religion of the Romans. Therefore, it was a foreign religion if you lived in Persia, because that was a rival empire. Christianity was tolerated in the “enemy” empires. Outside of both the Roman world and the enemies of the Roman world, it flourished. You know, in a few hundred years there were dioceses spread all across Asia; there were bishops in China and Mongolia. The church of the East — what we call these days, the Assyrian Church of the East — was spread all across Asia, even though the Western world knew little about it. In spite of the growth of Christianity outside of the Roman world and the world of Persia, this transnational movement came to be identified as the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Minority Christianity in an Islamic world. What happened with the coming of Islam? Rapidly, and in some cases within a century or two, all the Middle East and beyond became the world of Islam. Christianity was reduced to the status of a minority religion, the Roman religion. It was tolerated as a forerunner religion before Islam, but Christians had second-class status in Islamic society and were subjected to a tremendous social pressure that they should adopt Islam. Actually, much of the history of the Middle East is the story of the Islamization of what were once Christian countries. For about three hundred years, Egypt was a Christian country, Syria was a Christian country, and so forth. Gradually the Middle East became an overwhelmingly Muslim world — and the process still continues.

Interlude: the Crusader states. There was a brief interlude that we are familiar with, the Crusader period. For a relatively brief historical period, the Islamic states and jurisdictions were displaced by Western feudal Christian rule. All of a sudden there were Christian jurisdictions; that is to say, the political authority was Christian in the sense that it came from the “Christ
ian” West. It was Christian Western powers that imposed this new political order. There was even a displacement of Eastern forms of Christianity by Western forms of Christianity. For example, the Westerners put their own patriarch in Jerusalem — that is why we have a Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem still today — and the same thing happened later with Westerners putting their patriarch in Antioch, a Latin patriarch, and their patriarch in Constantinople, a Latin patriarch. It was a displacement of Eastern Christianity by Western powers. And so the Crusader conflict with Islam, a political conflict, had significant religious overtones.

Christianity in the post-Crusader Islamic world. In the post-Crusader world, which pretty much describes most of the rest of Middle Eastern history, Christianity was seen with suspicion because it was tangled with the Western powers and therefore had a Western involvement. Look, for example, at the waning years of the Ottoman Empire when France became the protector of the Catholics and Germany, the protector of the Protestants. The Western powers were seen as religious powers. That is why, there was always a lingering sense that Christians in this part of the world were of questionable loyalty because they seemed so tied to France, Germany and England, to the West, and to the Pope.

Interlude: the period of Western (“Christian”) mandates. There was only one other interlude of Christian control of the Middle East, the post-First World War period, the period of the mandates, the French and British mandates. You know that the Sykes-Picot treaty after the First World War divided up control of that portion of the Ottoman Empire between Britain and France. It was during that period that modern nation states were created: France created Lebanon from Syria and Britain cut off Jordan from Palestine and put three Ottoman provinces together to create the modern state of Iraq.

Of all of these modern nation states created during and after the mandate period by the Christian powers, only one country, Lebanon, is non-sectarian, so to speak. Israel, of course, is a Jewish state. All the other countries are Muslim, either secular or religious, but they are Muslim countries.

Middle Eastern Christianity today. Today, a Christian in the Middle East lives in a Judeo-Muslim world. They are citizens or subjects either of an Islamic political authority or a Jewish political authority, except for the unique case of Lebanon, which is a little bit ambivalent at the moment.  
 
The future of Christianity in the Middle East

Christianity is trans-national, -ethnic and -cultural. In any case, the nature of Christianity is that is should not be tied to a government. It should not be tied to an ethnic group. It should not be tied to any one culture. It is transnational, trans-ethnic and trans-cultural . It’s for the whole world. Jesus came to save the whole world. The Holy Spirit was poured out on the whole world. The mission of the Church is for the whole world. And the Catholic Church, the universal church, has that dimension. Of course it may be tangled a little bit with ethnicity, or culture, or politics, but it serves the whole world.

The challenges for Christians everywhere, especially the Middle East, is that they must not cling to a Western identity. In Lebanon, a generation or so ago, the average well-educated Christian would speak only French and could hardly speak Arabic. They self-proclaimed themselves as foreigners. All that has changed. The tendency of Christians in the Middle East is to identify with Western ways and Western styles.

Christians in the Middle East shouldn’t claim to be Western. And part of their challenge is that they shouldn’t claim a particular ethnicity either. There is still a very tribal sense in many of the Middle Eastern countries. For example, you could ask Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, “What tribe do you belong to?” and he would have an answer. He belongs to a tribe; he has Bedouin roots in Jordan. Of course we all belong to a family, a clan, have an ethnic group.

This is the ethnicity we all have. But the Christians in the Middle East — and everywhere — have to be able to let go of that, too.

One of the problems in the Middle East is that Christians have asserted Western culture against Islamic culture. Muslims don’t eat pork, we will. Muslims don’t drink wine, we will. Muslims fast through Ramadan, we won’t. It’s a sense of, we have to be us and they have to be them. It’s understandable, but it is also one of the challenges. Christianity doesn’t have to be — and shouldn’t be — tied to the Western way of doing things.

Christianity is not tied to geography. Another observation that may cause serious disagreement, Christianity has no ties to geography. Judaism is land-bound. Judaism is focused on one piece of land, the small strip of land, the Holy Land, because of the promise to Abraham, Issac and Jacob, because of the ancient kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Judaism is land-bound; that’s why the creation of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East was so important to Jews everywhere.

Islam is very tied to territory, too: Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem. In a sense, Muslims are shrine-bound. The Haram-as-Sharif with the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, is terribly important to Islam. The second Intifada was provoked by Ariel Sharon going up into the Muslim sanctuary area on the top of the mount where centuries ago the Jewish temple stood and stating that an Israeli can stand anywhere in Israel. That was as dangerous as throwing a lighted match into a powder magazine. For Muslims, this is the third most important place in the world. They are shrine-bound; Christianity is not. Jesus is not buried in the Holy Sepulchre. We are not tied to a place the way Jews and Muslims are.

I’m sure you remember the words of Jesus to the Samaritan woman: “…the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…but in spirit and in truth.” Where do we find Jesus? We find Him everywhere. We find Him among ourselves when two or three are gathered in His name. As followers of Jesus, we don’t have ties to a place like the Jews and the Muslims. Christianity can flourish anywhere. It can flourish in China, it can flourish in Georgia, it can flourish in Africa, it can flourish in Rome. Christianity is transnational, trans-ethnic, trans-cultural. However some of our structures can’t flourish in quite the same way. It is hard to do things the Italian way if you live in Australia; it is hard to do things the Spanish way if you live in Mexico. There are links to many places and cultures, and structures have to be modified to the place where they are, but Christianity itself can exist in any place at all.

There are no geographical imperatives to Christianity. We have historical roots in the Holy Land. There is no place so evocative to visit for a Christian as the Holy Land. The Holy Land is of immense symbolic importance. However, if it should happen that there be not one single Christian left in the Holy Land, it will not hurt Christianity fundamentally. Sadly, at the rate things are going, we may be coming very perilously close to that.

Christianity as bridge to the future for the Muslim Arab world. Having given this perhaps rather negative assessment, I want to emphasize that Christianity is a bridge to the future for the Muslim Arab world. First of all, Christians from the Western world have learned certain things and bring certain values and perspectives that are vitally important for the growth and maturation of the Arab world. For example, what in America we call the separation of church and state, is a very valuable concept. It was enshrined in Vatican II in the document about religious liberty and freedom of conscience. It’s enshrined in the declarations of the United Nations Organization. It’s rooted deeply in the teachings of Jesus. It is the idea that human dignity and human freedom requires respect for the conscience of the individual; this leads t
o freedom of worship. This is very upsetting to the Islamic world; yet if the Islamic world is to join fully into modern society, it has to integrate these values into its daily life. Pluralism is not evil. Pluralism is a healthy phenomenon. It has been long since experienced in some of the Western countries like Canada and America, and it is increasingly being experienced in Europe. It’s a value in itself. And Christians, because they bridge these cultures can be the instruments of assisting the maturation and modernization of the Islamic and Arab worlds.

Christians bring certain values, for example, reconciliation and forgiveness. We take them for granted, but we are facing a culture in the Eastern Mediterranean, in fact in much of the Mediterranean world, where you’re a wimp, you’re soft, you’re too easy if you forgive. Honor demands vengeance. You know, we think of this as a sort Mafia code, but it’s alive and well. Even in a modernized place like the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the honor of your family, of your clan, of your tribe demands vengeance sometimes. Christians come with the message of reconciliation and forgiveness. Jesus taught His followers to renounce their legitimate right to revenge. This is a value that is totally different from the culture of the Middle East, and yet it is something that we bring to it.

I think that ultimately what Christians bring is that they become bridges in their very selves. In Rome the Holy Father uses the title of “Pontifex Maximus,” originally a pagan Roman title. “Ponti” refers to a bridge (ponte in Italian) and “fex”, to the verb “to make”; a pontifex is a bridge builder. In ancient times, to build a bridge was a tremendous advancement because it allowed people to cross rivers easily, facilitated transportation and opened the way for armies. As Christians, we are all “pontifical,” all of us. Our challenge is bridging differences. Christians have a tremendous role to play, even though they are a tiny minority and don’t quite fit. They have tremendous roles to play in the Holy Land and in the Middle East.

If the Church can be an instrument to turn around the Islamic world and the Jewish world in which it lives, that would be a tremendous and valuable contribution. In small ways it’s happening already. We talk so much about helping schools, for example, or Bethlehem University, where such a large number of students aren’t even Catholic, or Christian. But, the university is of tremendous importance because the students are receiving values, they’re learning about coexistence, they’re experiencing the other, and they’re getting exposed to a higher quality of education. The work of the Church may not lead to increased numbers of Christians, but it’s immensely valuable. The best thing we can do is to give all the support we possibly can to advance the works of the Church — at least the best of the works of the Church. That’s why the Order of the Holy Sepulchre is so important.

Migration of Christians

Christianity is a movement. When we talk about migration, we need to remember that fundamentally Christianity is a movement. Christians have always spread throughout the world. The mission of Christians is to spread throughout the world. Evangelization is all about spreading the kingdom of God.

Emigration — not an evil as such. Don’t think that the movement of Christians is necessarily bad; the fact that a lot of Christians leave one place and go to another doesn’t mean it is an evil, although they may move with regret. If there are more Christian Bethlehemites in Santiago, Chile, than in Bethlehem, that is a fact of life. Is the goal to get every Bethlehemite from Santiago back to Bethlehem so they can be a Christian majority? Whether it is the goal or not, it’s not going to happen; it’s also a fact of life. One the other hand, isn’t it wonderful that Christians of Bethlehem are bringing their values and history to other lands? So, emigration isn’t necessarily an evil. But, it does involve a loss. There’s a patrimony and a culture that is being lost with the exodus of the Christians.

On the other hand it is understandable that Christians and other people in the Middle East want to seek a better life. People are leaving the Middle East to go to Australia; they’re leaving the Middle East to go to Sweden; they’re leaving the Middle East to go to France; they’re leaving the Middle East to go to Honduras; they’re leaving the Middle East to go to Brazil; they’re leaving the Middle East to go to Canada and the U.S. It takes a valiant minority to stay simply for the sake of maintaining the Christian presence when there are jobs, educational opportunities, a future and freedom in other parts of the world.

Need to cultivate a climate of safe migration. Migration, by the way, doesn’t mean you can’t come back. One of the challenges, it seems to me, is to create a climate for safe migration. We wax very ecstatic about, “Can we ensure that the storks can travel from Russia through the Middle East flyway and get down to Africa and back again?” or “Can the Monarch butterfly get from North America to Central America and back again?” or “Can the whales migrate freely through the seas?”

Why can’t we be as least as concerned about people migrating? That is to say, along with the environmentalists, we want animals to live in a safe place, we want safe passage so they can get to where they’re going, and a safe breeding ground when they get there. Minimally, our concern as responsible Christians regarding the United Nations and regarding our own governments is to advocate safeguards so that Christians can live in their own lands if they wish to and laws that facilitate allowing them to move across the world and allow them, if you will, new breeding grounds in other places — not laws that deny entrance, restrict movement, and restrict citizenship. It’s paradoxical that we’re more inclined to let the birds migrate than to let the people. And in migrations, as we know from birds, bees, salmon or elephants, migrants return. Why can’t Christians return to the Middle East if the social, cultural, and historical climate there is attracting them? Why should they be excluded from returning, as often is the case?

Particular concerns regarding the Middle East. Well, to come to a conclusion to these lengthy remarks, what are our concerns about the situation and migration of Christians in the Holy Land and the rest of the Middle East? First, we’re concerned to assist those who are there. They are our brothers and sisters; they have to be helped. They live in a negative environment. Discriminated against, they lack certain opportunities that we take for granted. They need help. Second, if we are truly concerned with that part of the world, we need to use some of our influence on the governments of the lands in which we live to affect their national policies about the Middle East. It says in the preamble to the constitution of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, dating to Pope Paul IV, that one of the characteristic virtues of knights and ladies of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre is “a courageous struggle for justice and peace.” Accordingly, issues of justice, peace, human rights, and reconciliation are of vital importance — especially issues of justice and peace in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East. Further, we help ensure that Christian values, Christian ethics, Christian criteria of judgment are being brought to the table, either directly through our home countries or through the advocacy and work of the local church.

A very practical thing we can do is help those who wish to migrate: welcome them, facilitate their arrival and the presence and establishment of Middle Eastern Christians who wish to come to our home countries. Also, we can advocate less restrictive immigration policies in the countries in which we live.

Our mission is to help the survival of the Christians in the Holy Land — through our financial help, through our person-to-person help, through the presence of our visits and pilgrimages
, through our promotion of education and human development for those who are there, and through our willingness at home to engage in this “courageous struggle for justice and peace.”

Thank you.

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