Christian Presence in Mideast Is Significant

Preserving the Church in the Region Is Key Issue for Synod

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By Bishop Béchara Raï



VATICAN CITY, OCT. 13, 2010 (Zenit.org).- On Wednesday, while Benedict XVI held his regular Wednesday general audience, instead of attending the daily plenary session of the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, small dialogue groups met in various languages.

Today the teams were given the freedom to choose the subjects for discussion, according to the report submitted by the General Relator, Patriarch Antonios Naguib. What are the points that the synod fathers want to emphasize? What are the points they wish to be clarified?

They focused again on the goal of the synod, which is, in fact, an overview of the reality of Christians and their present situation and their future prospects in the countries of the Middle East. This is to be considered in light of the Word of God, the Bible, Apostolic Tradition and the teachings of the Church, in order for Christians to realize their place in the history of salvation, in God's salvation in the Middle East, where the Incarnation began, and where redemption was fulfilled, and where the first Christian community was established before any other.

Christians need to realize that they have a significant presence. This presence and how to preserve it is the main topic and the main purpose of the synod. Christians have an active presence in the Middle East that needs to be preserved.

On the other hand, the fathers focused on the communion between the churches and the value of working together, the value of mutual respect, to have a fruitful testimony in our societies. In the heart of this Catholic communion we discussed communion with the Orthodox Churches, and the relations with Muslims and other religions in the Middle East.

Clarifications

We also reviewed several issues that must be clarified, such as the term "positive secularism," and everyone agreed on calling it "civil state." Others wanted to clarify some of the concepts of citizenship and human rights issues, wondering how can we preserve the Christian presence in the Middle East if there is a lack of respect for human rights.

Some others emphasized the freedom of religion, because Christians in their home countries are the original citizens and they have their basic rights and equality with their brothers and fellow citizens, whether they are Muslims in Arab countries or Jews in Israel.

We discussed the way to live our mission, and we asked local officials in Arab countries and the international community to help Christians to live in dignity and have their political and national, social and cultural rights. This was an important topic today, and we hope that through this consultation and thinking together, we will reach out with one voice in today's world that is a small village, not just because of media and technology, but also as a result of globalization.

Therefore, we cannot live in countries that lack the basic human rights and distinguish between minorities and majorities. This is what we want for the countries of the Middle East. Lebanon is a living example of this. Here I stress again the message of Lebanon in this area, where there is equality between all religions and where human rights are respected, and we hope to move the Lebanese experience to all countries in the Middle East.

These were some of the points we have focused on today.

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Bishop Béchara Raï is the Catholic Maronite bishop of Jbeil, Lebanon, and the president of the episcopal commission for communications in Lebanon. He is currently a participant in the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, and is writing a daily briefing for ZENIT's Arabic edition.

[Translated from Arabic by ZENIT]