Christians in the Arab world “do not consider themselves as minorities, but rather want to understand themselves as full citizens of their nations, with all that this status entails in terms of duties, responsibilities and full rights.”
These views were expressed by the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in his address to the conference on “Challenges facing Arab Christians”.
The conference was held 3 to 4 September in Amman, Jordan, where Tveit participated on invitation from King Abdullah II of Jordan and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, chief adviser for religious and cultural affairs in Jordan.
The event brought together prominent Christian and Muslim leaders to address the challenges faced by Arab Christians in the region.
On behalf of the WCC member churches, Tveit expressed a shared concern for the presence and witness of local Christians throughout the Arab world.
Arab Christians, he said, have a long history of living in plural societies that respect diversity, understanding that all people are created equal by God.
In his speech, Tveit mentioned several Christian initiatives for solidarity, advocacy and inter-religious dialogue for peace and stability in the Middle East, undertaken by the WCC and other ecumenical and interfaith organizations.
Tveit stressed that churches and Christians in the Middle East “read positively the signs of the times” and “see the transformations as bringing potentially new opportunities for re-commitment to Christian-Muslim engagement and for engagement with Jewish partners also working for peace and justice.”
Under the leadership of the Middle East Council of Churches, “Christians realize more than ever that their contribution in building their new societies will have a more positive impact when they act together,” he said.
In his address, Prince Ghazi reiterated these concerns, saying, “Arab Christians are suffering not only because of the blind and deaf sedition that everyone has suffered from in certain Arab countries since the beginning of what is incorrectly called the Arab Spring, but also merely because they are Christians.”
“We reject this categorically and completely. We reject it according to our sacred laws, as Muslims before God. Second, we reject it morally, as Arabs and as fellow tribesmen. Third, we reject it emotionally as neighbours and dear friends,” he added.
The WCC’s concern for the Christian presence in the region has been expressed several times by the WCC governing bodies, and stated in 2011 by a WCC Central Committee Minute on “the Presence and Witness of Christians in the Middle East”.
The Central Committee said in part, “The WCC has viewed the Middle East as a region of special interest, being the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For Christians, the region is the place where our Lord was incarnated and born, preached, suffered crucifixion and was resurrected. It is also the land from where the Good News was spread to the entire inhabited world. Our living faith has its roots in this land, and is nourished and nurtured by the unbroken witness of the local churches who have their own roots from the apostolic times.”