A new initiative titled Ecumenical Institute for the Middle East is “promising and inspiring” in its attempt to train young Christians in ecumenical thought and history, according to the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The WCC general secretary met with organizers, students and faculty of the Ecumenical Institute for the Middle East on 20 July during a visit to Beirut, Lebanon.
Some forty students participating in the institute this year come from Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Iraq, representing diverse Christian traditions and denominations.
Initiated by the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) – Middle East, the Ecumenical Institute for the Middle East aims to promote and nurture ecumenism and interchurch collaboration in the Arab world, as well as build bridges with people of other faiths for the sake of truthful dialogue.
As a Christian youth body founded in 1895, the WSCF has been offering valuable experience in ecumenical training of young people in the Middle East region for more than 43 years.
After meeting with the students, Tveit said that amid the challenging situation of the region, the Ecumenical Institute for the Middle East holds a significant value for the churches.
“With theologically well qualified teachers, the institute is introducing students to biblical studies and the diversity of Christian traditions, training them to continue with the legacy of the ecumenical movement,” he said.
Tveit called the institute “one way of supporting churches in the troubled region of the Middle East, an expression of solidarity and a viable way of building relations”.
“I trust churches in the region will support this initiative and it can continue working,” said Tveit.
The Ecumenical Institute for the Middle East promotes unity in diversity, peace building and security for all, by training participants who are interested in engaging in ecumenical training and thought.
Some of the themes that will provide a focus of the training sessions include inter-church dialogue, ecumenism, its definition, history and vision, ecumenism in the Middle East, the history of the churches in the region and worldwide, ecumenical institutions, history and achievements. Among other topics will be interfaith dialogue, biblical studies, ecumenism in church and society, contemporary issues and their impact on Middle Eastern populations, human rights and women’s rights, education, development and diakonia.
The Ecumenical Institute for the Middle East will be launched officially on 31 July.