Christian communities in the Middle East have to rediscover their mission as mediators and messengers of peace.
This was a statement made by Iraq native, Dr. Amal Marogy, a bilingual Aramaic-Arabic speaker from Iraq, prolific writer and renowned scholar, who hopes that her rich cultural background will help her become an active contributor to the intercultural dialogue between East and West.
In Part II of this exclusive interview with ZENIT, the affiliated researcher in Neo-Aramaic Studies at the University of Cambridge and founder and executive director of Aradin Charitable Trust, spoke on the situation in the Middle East, especially facing its Christian communities and women.
Aradin Charitable Trust is a UK registered charity that advances education in minority and little used languages and related historical heritage around the world, especially in the Middle East. It offers grants and expertise to encourage education and raise public awareness of the problem of the loss of language and heritage endangering ancient Aramaic-speaking communities in the Middle East, heirs and guardians of treasured ancient languages and civilizations.
The researcher also discussed what is needed in the war-torn region, the efforts of Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI to help, and what must be done.
Holding a PhD in Oriental Languages and Cultures from the University of Ghent, Belgium, the professor taught Arabic at the University of Cambridge and was Director of Studies in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at King’s College.
Moreover, Dr. Marogy launched and organized the first and second Foundations of Arabic Linguistic Conference series in Cambridge and has launched a new series of conferences under the title New Horizons in Intercultural Dialogue. The inaugural conference ‘Cultural Heritage of the Christian Communities in the Middle East: challenges and opportunities’ was held at Trinity Hall (Cambridge) on 14 and 15 November.
Part I was published on Monday, February 16th
ZENIT: Could you speak on the situation of women in the region?
Dr. Marogy: Regarding the situation of women, one must admit it has deteriorated greatly after the 2003 invasion. Iraqi women have always had access to education and most parents considered the education of their daughters equally important as the education of their sons. Actually, Christian women, and the Catholic in particular, have always been privileged and many Muslim women will envy our mothers because they could trust their husbands while they were away while they never knew if their husband had a second wife somewhere else, One only had to compare the situation of women in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria in the past and now and there will be an unmistakable correlation between their situation and the influence of Christianity!
However, it is absolutely wrong to think that women in the Middle East are oppressed. In order to understand what is happening to women now, one must understand the notion of honour and reputation. The reputation of any family or community depends on the reputation of its women. In other words, the difficult situation most women find themselves in is not due to the fact they are weak or not valued; on the contrary it is because of their infinite value as guarantors of honour and good reputation. The notion of honour becomes in this case a two edged sword that can easily turn into a curse to imprison women, limit their freedom and even costs them their lives. By taking women hostage, the reputation of any community would have been tarnished, and by that very act, the very community they belong to is taken hostage.
ZENIT: Do you think Pope Francis has been doing enough? Or how would you consider his efforts to help the Middle East?
Dr. Marogy: Yes. He has. Our beloved Pope has never failed the Christian communities in the Middle East. In fact, he and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI before him are a shining example of how shepherds should deal with crises, be it persecution or other challenges facing the Church. They both realise they are not the answer to every question because there is only One Answer and that is Jesus Christ. Pope Francis is a man of faith and has a big heart that is capable of embracing the whole world, and that is what the world needs most.
ZENIT: Should any other parties do more? The UN, certain nations, agencies, etc.?
Dr. Marogy: Yes, they should do more, but they have to do so taking the social mores and structures into account. The rebuilding of my ancestral village has, in fact, defaced it and created a social problem that is very difficult to solve. Moreover, what we have now is ugly rows of houses of bad quality built on someone else’s land. Whoever wants to help, cannot just talk to the political and religious leaders, they have to talk to people on the ground and their heads because in most cases these people have more common sense about them, and they know how to build their lives and homes with a bit of help. Pouring money is not necessarily the solution, we need to have a plan and more importantly a vision.
I would like to express my pride in the way thousands of Iraqi Christians, and especially women, have embraced the Cross lovingly and courageously and choose Christ above all material goods.
I think understanding is the first step in any effective way of helping. We have to move away from pure emotional campaigns that prompt us to donate, and start thinking of how one can effectively help those most in need, especially the squeezed middle. The major problem in aid and development is that problems are sometimes blown out of proportion, overlooking what might be equally important.
We have to learn to see things in their true perspective. In order to help one must learn to discover what is really going on behind the scene.
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Aradin Charitable Trust: http://www.aradin.org.uk/