In an international conference on the situation of Christians in the Middle East, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), highlighted the significance of the cross as a symbol of hope for the global church in solidarity with Christians in the Arab world.
“We are called to carry our cross as disciples, but we must also carry one another’s cross, showing how we share this cross as a uniting symbol among one global ecumenical family,” said Tveit at the conference, organized by the WCC in collaboration with the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), May 21-25 in Beirut, Lebanon.
“Christian solidarity means that we care for life, rights and dignity of all human beings, while we work together in hope for a better future,” said Tveit. He went to say that Christian solidarity is much needed in the special context of the Middle East, which is faced with several conflicts and political upheavals.
“We are here to listen to the concerns of churches in the Middle East and learn from their experiences of living together in plurality with other faiths.”
“With open minds and hearts, and with prayers, we discern how we can work together for the future of the churches here in this region and for justice and peace for all,” he added.
Tveit said that the WCC has been deeply engaged with the issues of peace in the region, especially in relation to peace for both Palestinians and Israelis in accordance with international law. “Together with churches in the region, we advocate for peace that is based on respect for human rights, an end of illegal occupation and freedom from violence,” he added.
Tveit also discussed Syria, a country of significant concern to churches around the world. He said that the people of Syria have paid an enormous price for the failure of their government in protecting its citizens.
“This is the failure of the international community to provide a political solution to avoid the tragedy in Syria, which also includes the kidnapping of the two Syrian Orthodox bishops from Aleppo.”
It is only through influential engagement with the national actors and the international community that a political solution to end conflict in Syria should be found, stated Tveit.
Other speakers at the conference included Rev. Dr Michel Jalkh, acting general secretary of the MECC; Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States; Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation; Rev. Habib Badr, president of the National Evangelical Church of Beirut; and Patriarch Mor Ignatius Joseph Younan III, the MECC's president.