Outcome of "Arab Spring" Uncertain, Says Patriarch

Hopes Efforts of Protestors Will Bring a Better Future

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JERUSALEM, APRIL 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- While the political protests sweeping through the Middle East and Northern Africa to bring an end to oppressive regimes is a positive development, there is a concern regarding the final outcome, according to Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem.

In an interview posted earlier this month on the Web site of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the patricarch expressed his hope that the result will be "for the better and the common good."

"We are very pleased with this awareness of our youth who are taking over their destiny and future," he stated. "It is a movement without political color or particular religious bias. It emanates from the Arab youth’s awareness of his own strength and vitality."

Patriarch Twal noted that "the element of 'fear' has been broken" on the side of the people, and that it has "changed sides": "Governments fear that masses of youth, this mass of opinions and beliefs, are waking up."

"On the other hand," he stated, "we must recognize that there is always the unknown and uncertainties that these emerging movements bring about. No one knows what will happen thereafter. We hope it is for the better and the common good."

Role of Christians

With regard to the role of Christians in the "Arab Spring," the patriarch affirmed that they "should not be on the fringes of these movements."

"As we said at the Synod last October, Christians should feel 100% citizens like their Muslim compatriots," he said. "They must participate in the life of their country if these movements are for the collective good. I do not like to see Christians outside of these movements, because this is also their country. They must not feel in a ghetto of their own."

"As for the Christians of the Holy Land," Patriarch Twal continued, "we must remember that the political situation here is extremely delicate and very different from other countries. There is no magic formula or miracle recipe. Each country’s situation is distinctly unique.

"The Church of Jerusalem has a special mission and must cooperate in a just and lasting peace through its interventions, institutions and schools. It is clear that Israel today must hear the widespread demonstration of discontent through protest actions sweeping across its neighboring Arab countries.

"If the mass protests of young people have raised these movements in their own regime, all countries including Israel should be vigilant. The challenge for us -- the Catholic Church and religious leaders -- is how to properly guide them."

Help from the West

Patriarch Twal spoke clearly about the relationship between the churches in the East and the West, affirming that "it's the same church, confronted with the same challenges for the youth, family, vocations, etc."

The patriarch suggested than an infusion of Christians from the West would not only "give 'vitamins'" to the Church in the Holy Land, but that it would be "mutually beneficial."

"Christians who come from the West must not simply help our Church," he asserted. "They should consider themselves a part of this Church, which is their Mother Church. They should feel responsible for the future of Christians living in the Holy Land."