Synod message pleads for peace, justice in Middle East
October 25, 2010
The Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, in a final message on October 22, issued an urgent call for renewal and for peace in the region.
“We are now at a turning point in our history,” the Synod statement declared. The message included pleas for unity among the many different Catholic traditions of the region, for religious freedom, for peace in the Holy Land and in Iraq, and for justice for the Palestinian people.
The statement included general observations about the situation in the Middle East and a series of messages addressed specifically to different groups: Catholics living in the region, Catholics elsewhere in the world, other Christians, Muslims and Jews, and the international community.
Acknowledging the many Eastern-rite Catholic churches that are active in the Middle East, the Synod encouraged work to “strengthen communion within every sui iuris Church, and between the Catholic churches of different traditions.” The Synod reminded Catholics of all traditions that unity within the Church is a prerequisite for successful ecumenical work and for relations with other faiths.
In its handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Synod message expressed sympathy for the plight of “the Palestinians who are suffering the consequences of the Israeli occupation: the lack of freedom of movement, the wall of separation and the military checkpoints, the political prisoners, the demolition of homes, the disturbance of socio-economic life and the thousands of refugees.” However, while the reference to Israeli “occupation” provoked some angry responses from Israeli readers, the Synod also acknowledged the continuing threat to Israel’s security, and the final message “reflected on the suffering and insecurity in which Israelis live.” The message also paid special attention to “the continued suffering of the Church in Iraq,” noting that Christians are under siege there, and many young Iraqi Christians are leaving their homeland to find safety and opportunity elsewhere—threatening the continued existence of an ancient Christian community.
To Christians throughout the Middle East, the Synod offered support and praise: “We commend you for your perseverance in times of adversity, suffering and anguish.” The message also offered cautions against secularism and consumerism. “Be strong in your Christian values,” the bishops exhorted their people.
Recognizing the many Christians who have left the region, and established small communities of Eastern Catholics in other lands, the Synod included a message of sympathy and support for these Eastern Christians living in the “diaspora.”
The Synod message concludes with a series of messages addressed to different groups:
- To other Christians, the statement observes: “We share the same journey.” The Synod encourages “all initiatives for ecumenical dialogue in each of our countries.”
- To Jewish people, especially in Israel, the Synod expresses the hope that continuing dialogue “can bring us to work together to press those in authority to put an end to the political conflict which continues to divide us and to disrupt daily life in our countries.”
- To Muslims the Synod issues a call for dialogue that will establish reciprocal respect and understanding of religious freedom, leading to “acceptance of pluralism and mutual esteem.”
- To the international community, and especially political leaders, the Synod makes an appeal for efforts to bring an end to violence and a vindication of the rights of people in Palestine, Iraq, and Lebanon.
In its message to the international community the Synod makes a general statement:
We condemn violence and terrorism from wherever it may proceed as well as all religious extremism. We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Christianism and Islamophobia and we call upon religions to assume their responsibility to promote dialogue between cultures and civilizations in our region and in the entire world.
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