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Greeting to the Middle East Council of Churches Annual Partners Meeting

Greeting to the Middle East Council of Churches Annual Partners Meeting by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, 7 May 2019

09 May 2019

He is risen!

With this fundamental fact, this foundational affirmation, I greet you, our fellow churches in the Middle East Council of Churches and our ecumenical partners.

I salute you on behalf of the hundreds of millions of your fellow Christians around the world who at this time of year turn their eyes to you and to this region. They applaud your work for a stable and just peace, and through prayer and support they join your hopes for bringing life in all its fullness to all those who live here.

Of course, our faith is not blind. We see around us so many situations of conflict and hostilities, of hardened enmities, of violent extremism masquerading as religious devotion, of interreligious strife, of persecution of Christians and others.

Whether we look to the ongoing conflict in Syria, the misery of millions of refugees in Lebanon and Jordan and around the region, the unlivable conditions in Gaza and the growing encroachments of the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands, or the monumental challenges of restoring communities and the fractured Christian presence in Iraq, we see that today’s threats to human well-being in the region are not just different in scale than, say, ten years ago. They are different also in kind, complexity, and intractability.

That is why the continued witness of the churches of the Middle East and your stalwart partners is so important. Your Easter faith lightens the darkness. Your encouraging of Ecumenical Accompaniers in Israel and Palestine (WCC-EAPPI), for example, has for more than thirty years ensured security and safe travel to people there—and publicly held all persons and parties to their stated commitments to upholding the dignity and rights of Palestinians. It is a model for how churches can sustain human dignity.

So I applaud your focus this year on human dignity. Not only is human dignity the conceptual bridge between the characteristic language of secular agencies (from the Enlightenment era to the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights) and the more theological language of the churches. It is also true that the roots of the former lie in the latter: the very concept of human rights and human worth are strongly rooted in the biblical tradition and in Christian theology, East and West. We have something profound, even vital, to offer the world.

Precisely that dignity we find vindicated by the God of Life’s raising of Jesus from the dead. His rising into new life regenerates human life from death and decay, dignifies every person and endows every situation with new redemptive possibilities. God’s passionate embrace of human life must rekindle our own, encouraging our sometimes discouraged hearts, inspiring creative approaches to desperate situations, transforming death and decay through resurrection hope.

No matter how bleak the situation looks, we know that we will meet him and recognize him on the road. At our table he will be with us in our reflections and deliberations.  He will make our hearts to burn with longing for God, thirst for justice, hunger for peace. He will always be among us, saying, “Peace be with you!”

He is risen indeed!

 

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General Secretary, World Council of Churches