by Mohammad Ghazal | Sep 04, 2013 | 23:17
AMMAN — Muslims and Christians in the Arab world need to work together to combat extremism, terrorism and violence as it is their shared responsibility to ensure the stability of their countries, heads of several churches in Jordan and Jerusalem said on Wednesday.
They stressed that terrorism has no religion, noting that Muslims and Christians should stand up together in the face of any calls or groups that promote religious radicalism and narrow-mindedness, as plurality in the Arab world is one of its strongest assets.
The Christian scholars and heads of churches made their remarks Wednesday on the second day of a conference on “The Challenges Facing Arab Christians”, where they said there is a desperate need for efforts to make it clear that Christian Arabs are not affiliated with political agendas and schemes of the West towards the region.
In their discussions, they emphasised that the Israeli occupation and the continued settlement activities fuel violence and extremism in the region, and eventually lead to radicalism and violence of which Christians in some Arab states have become victims.
“We are living at a time of uncertainty… Muslims and Christians need to be working side-by-side and standing together to promote stability and moderation,” said Bishop Munib Younan from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
Conflicts in the Middle East are not religious, he said, adding: “We know that extremism is not restricted to one religion. The future of Arab Christians lies in solidarity and participation among all components of society.”
Highlighting the role of Arab Christians in the development of the Arab world, Younan said Arab Christians seek dignity, equality and peace based on justice for all, urging Arab and Middle Eastern Christians to engage with Muslims to achieve these values and rights.
“This engagement is not just for religious understanding but for shaping our shared political future,” he said, adding that Arab Christians refuse all types of division in society whether along sectarian or religious line.
In his address during the conference, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem, All Palestine and Jordan Theophilos III stressed that coexistence is the essence of life in the region.
He emphasised that the Arab Christians are indigenous to the region, noting that threat does not come from diversity but from violence and extremism and attempts to undermine the freedom of worship.
Theophilos III emphasised that dialogue, not war or violence, is the key to solving conflicts in the region.
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal warned that the stalemate in peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis is harming the entire society and Christians in particular, stressing that it is time to resolve the Palestinian issue.
“As long as the Palestinian issue is not resolved, then there will be no stability or security and this affects Christians and others,” he said.
“It is unfortunate that our tragic conditions are no more of interest to the international community and some of the Arab and Islamic countries as focus shifted to Syria. Promises and empty speeches are not enough to help resolve the issue,” he said.
Twal stressed that the call for solidarity is one of the commonalities between Muslims and Christians, adding that moderates among Muslims need to “raise their voice” as their silence and inability to influence events in the region is harmful to us.
“There is a need to courageously combat extremists through raising awareness and adopting action plans to ensure the safety of society and Christians in particular,” said Twal.
Muslims and Christians need to know how to work hand-in-hand to counter the cycles of violence and religious prejudice and extremism, he added.
Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East Suheil Dawani stressed that the Christian presence in the Arab world is one of the main pillars of Arab culture.
Arab Christians are facing increasing challenges that force many to leave their countries, he said, stressing the need for supporting pluralism in society and promoting peace.