Symposium Outlines Mideast Christians' Needs

Archbishop Migliore Notes Church's Contribution in Region

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SOUTHFIELD, Michigan, MARCH 4, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Celestino Migliore addressed a symposium on Christianity in the Middle East, which met to discuss ways of supporting these dwindling communities.

The archbishop, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, noted, "There in the Middle East exists not only the history of salvation, but also the geography of salvation."

The symposium, organized by Christian Arab and Middle Eastern Churches Together, along with Tele-Lumiere/Noursat, the largest Arabic speaking Christian television network, was hosted by the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle of Detroit. The three-day conference concluded last week, and focused on the theme "Christianity in the Middle East: Ancient Yet Ever New."

A Tele-Lumiere press release announced that the archbishop was joined by dignitaries and over 300 guests in his address at the symposium banquet.

"In our day, many Christians and Muslims happen to meet each other as in the desert night, where the human silhouette is completely distorted," he noted.

"Muslims look at Christians as the monsters of the Crusades, as described in the history books," he said.

"Christians on the other hand," the archbishop added, "see Muslims as a threatening monster of religious intolerance."

Small but meaningful

The archbishop mentioned the Vatican's particular interest in the Middle East, "small though its Christian population is, because of its meaningful part in Christianity."

He affirmed that the Christians have made progress in establishing a "lasting presence in the Middle East" through schools that serve the entire community, including Muslims and Jews, as well as hospitals, monasteries and social charities.

The prelate lauded the efforts of Christians to obtain religious freedom and equality.

He acknowledged that speaking of dialogue in a context where "some [...] have to leave your country because of oppression" is not easy.

But the Holy See official affirmed, "We cannot resort to violence."

Symposium members noted that Middle Eastern Christians are dwindling, now at 7% of the total population of the region.

They pointed to the "great need to inform the American public that Middle Eastern Christians continue to exist as one of the important religious communities of that region, that despite their sufferings, the Holy Spirit helped them survive and witness to Christ."

Panel participants appealed for support of the "continuing presence of Christians in the region and their efforts to live and prosper in peace." This support, they said, should focus on developmental aid, media backing, political help and spiritual assistance.