A two-day conference called by Jordan’s King Abdullah concluded today in Amman, with Christian leaders reiterating their calls for dialogue, rather than foreign military intervention, in Syria.
King Abdullah convoked the conference as the situation for Christians in the region is increasingly tense. Particularly, the conflict in Syria and attacks against churches in Egypt have increased Christian’s fears.
The conference was organized by the king’s chief advisor for religious and cultural affairs, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad. It gathered Christian representatives from across the region. Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, represented the Vatican.
The king told conference participants that the current climate of “intra-religious, sectarian and ideological” violence in the Middle East “requires all of us to focus on education, and the way we bring up our children to protect the generations to come. This is the responsibility of families and other educational institutions, as well as mosques and churches,” Vatican Radio reported.
“We support every effort to preserve the historical Arab Christian identity, and safeguard the right to worship freely, based on a rule in both the Christian and Islamic faiths that underlines love of God and love of neighbor, as embodied in the ‘A Common Word‘ initiative,” he added.
On Tuesday, participants heard from Patriarchs from Catholic, Orthodox and other Christian churches in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, while the Patriarchs and bishops of the churches in Jordan and Jerusalem spoke of issues of concern in their communities on Wednesday.
The apostolic nuncio in Amman, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, addressed participants as the Holy See’s diplomatic representative to Jordan and Iraq.
He told Vatican Radio today about the conference.
“As you know the situation for Christians in the Middle East is very tense in this moment and I think the king is good willed and wanted to try everything he can to help them to stay in this region and to live with their Muslim brothers as best as they can,” the archbishop said. “And I think this conference, in this sense shows that he is aware that Christians are a little scared and they are thinking to leave. And so he realizes that something must be done and so this is the first time that such a conference was organized in a Muslim country with the leaders of a country, in this case King Abdullah who has called a conference for Christian leaders of the region.”
Archbishop Lingua added that Christian leaders at the conference “were worried of course about military intervention in Syria and so this is why many of them were asking to the foreign countries not to interfere in the political affairs of the countries of this region. They are calling for a dialogue and if the international community can do something, it is to promote dialogue and reconciliation instead of military intervention.”
Archbishop Lingua noted that Muslim participants at the Amman conference and others he has encountered “are insisting that Muslims and Christians are Arabs. This is the concept that is becoming more (stressed) – that Christians are not guests or second class citizens. The concept of citizenship is a concept which is stressed because all of them are citizens of this country so they are not guests or foreigners. And so, more than tolerance, we must stress citizenship.”