Final Communiqué of the Christian Muslim Consultation on Christian Presence and Witness in the Arab World
A Christian-Muslim Consultation on Christian Presence and Witness in the Arab World, in the light of what has come to be currently known as the “Arab Spring” was held between the 24- 27 January 2012. The meeting was organized by the World Council of Churches, in collaboration with the Middle East Council of Churches and hosted by the Armenian Catholicosate in Antelias, Lebanon.
Participants came from a number of Middle Eastern countries: Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, UAE, as well as from a small number of churches in the United States, Europe and Pakistan. They included religious leaders, scholars and young people.
During the discussions there was a clear concern, among Christians and Muslims alike, to strive to build diverse societies based on human dignity, drawing their strength from faith in the One True God, Creator of all.
The consultation formed part of a series on ongoing meetings which are aiming to create an appropriate atmosphere for honest and open dialogue, under the eyes of God, for the service of humanity in the region.
The discussions focused on the following three themes:
1. The “Arab Spring” with its consequences for both Christians and Muslims in Arab societies.
2. Present and future citizenship models in the Arab world.
3. Christians and Muslims working together to achieve freedom and justice in the Arab world.
Those present noted the growth of a common hope for a new reality where Arab societies will be built on human dignity, which is the basis for living together, diversity and the respect of others in their otherness.
Participants also expressed their support for peaceful popular movements which are seeking democracy and freedom. Working in such a way can help to achieve the values that those movements are calling for: equality, social justice and citizenship.
There was also insistence on the necessity of respecting the principle of public and individual freedoms in Arab societies. These include political freedom, as well as freedom of thought, opinion and expression, all of which need to be stated in laws guaranteeing their protection. Members of the consultation paid tribute to the role of young people in inducing positive changes in the Arab world.
Participants discussed mechanisms to assist in transforming this “Spring” into a constructive one for Christians and Muslims alike. The following suggestions were proposed during working groups and discussions:
1. To promote the role of religious dialogue in defending human rights; to deal with religious tensions through dialogue in order to solve conflicts; to avoid these religious tensions being used by external actors.
2. To offer space for interaction between young people and religious institutions.
3. To provide media and educational material in order to improve accurate knowledge and common understanding between Christians and Muslims,
Participants also highlighted some topics to be discussed in greater depth during future meetings:
· The role of women in the Arab Spring.
· The attachment of Christians to their homelands and the issue of emigration.
· Issues relating to mission and conversion
Members of the consultation hoped that the changes in the Arab world will result in active movements leading to the liberation of Palestine from Israeli occupation on the basis proposed by Christian Palestinians in their document “A Moment of Truth”.
Participants called on everyone to pray so that, together, we find in our respective spiritual traditions, common space to enable us to fight against repression, poverty and ignorance. So we conclude by paying tribute to one of God’s most noble gifts: Human dignity.