OSLO, Norway, DEC. 7, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The grand knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher is expressing concern about dwindling numbers of Holy Land Christians, while affirming that their emigration is not necessarily negative.
Cardinal John Foley stated this Friday in a conference held at the Norwegian School of Theology in Oslo on “The Exodus of Christians from the Holy Land: A Challenge for a Sustainable Peace.”
He said, “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.”
The cardinal reported however, that “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 [or 2%], the smallest percentage of Christians of any country in the region.”
“Christians are leaving the Holy Land,” he said, “leaving the Arab world, leaving the Middle East.”
The prelate explained that this is taking place because “socially, among Christians, there is a sense of exclusion, if not discrimination, in many countries.”
“That there is discrimination in Muslim countries is absolutely incontestable,” he said, though it “varies from country to country.”
“Generally speaking,” he added, “the higher levels of the political and social order are reserved for Muslims; it’s a fact of life.”
“However,” Cardinal Foley affirmed, “if it should happen that there be not one single Christian left in the Holy Land, it will not hurt Christianity fundamentally,” as Christianity is not bound to any geographical location.
Christianity can flourish anywhere, he said.
The cardinal stated: “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.”
Thus, the prelate affirmed, emigration is “not an evil as such.”
He continued: “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. It’s also a fact of life.”
When Christians from Bethlehem emigrate, Cardinal Foley pointed out, they bring their values and history to other lands.
Emigration is “not necessarily an evil,” he reiterated, “but, it does involve a loss.”
“There’s a patrimony and a culture that is being lost with the exodus of the Christians,” the prelate affirmed.
“On the other hand,” he added, “it is understandable that Christians and other people in the Middle East want to seek a better life.”
The cardinal acknowledged, “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.”
He continued: “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.
“It’s paradoxical that we’re more inclined to let the birds migrate than to let the people.”
Cardinal Foley underlined the need to assist the Christians who are currently living in the Holy Land, who “need help.”
“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,” he said.
In this way, the prelate affirmed, “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.”
He also added that “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.”
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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-27766?l=english