Cardinal Sandri: “The survival of Christians in the Middle East requires unity”

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches calls upon Christians to be in communion and bear Christian witness. They will continue being a fundamental presence only if they manage to be living stones, witnesses of the Gospel in deeds and words. But the international community must also do its share. Christians - in the words of the Cardinal - are not and should not be relocated on the basis of party interests. Rather, as citizens possessing equal dignity they must be recognized the possibility to remain as architects of unity and reconciliation.

“They will perish together or they will survive together. The presence of Christians in the Middle East will continue being fundamental only if they manage to be living stones, witnesses of the Gospel in deeds and words.

Christians’ survival in the Middle East can only be achieved if the churches remain united and if they live the communion and witness as invoked in the 2010 Synod on the Middle East”,

underlined Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, during an international meeting, ongoing in Rome, organized by the German Bishops’ Conference in cooperation with the University of Munich, titled “Between World Society and Regional Transformations: Christians, Christian Churches and Religion in a changing Middle East”.

This meeting, he said, “constitutes an effort in the framework of the management of the refugee crisis, alongside with the efforts to ensure the implementation of humanitarian corridors for the delivery of aids and to provide utmost support to the most affected areas. The hope is that the proposals for a cease-fire advanced a few days ago may be put into action on site.” In his address His Eminence underlined that the survival of Christians in the Middle East also “requires their unity.”

“The Holy See is fully involved in the promotion of Christian unity also through the demand for the unification of Easter celebration dates not yet achieved: “a scandal within another scandal due to divisions among Christians.”

The call for “communion and witness” today appears to be suffered rather than experienced. “For many of our Christian brothers – the cardinal replied – it is a question of surviving an aggression against Christians. They are forced to flee also as a result of the situation at international level.” In the light of ongoing attacks is it more appropriate to speak of the defence of Christians or of that of minorities? “I believe it is more appropriate to speak of the defence of Christians in their capacities as citizens”, the Prefect pointed out. “Christians are citizens like the rest of the population. They are entitled to equal rights and duties, as highlighted in the 2010 Synod for the Middle East.” Would it be legitimate to consider the possibility of armed Christian militia to defend the faithful, notably from the acts of violence of the Islamic State?

“It would be inappropriate to consider Christian militia. I would rather speak of the responsibilities of national and international communities to defend the Christian population too.

It is evident – the Cardinal said – that if they should stay in the Country that displaced them or return to the areas from which they fled they should be protected through appropriate means to ensure they will no longer be the victims of mass murder, in the same way as their fellow citizens, entitled to their same rights and with the same citizenship.”

The existence and the cooperation between Churches in the Middle East raise a set of specific questions at various levels, “addressed primarily to the international political realm.” “It is necessary to unmask every – more or less concealed – attempt to upset and reconcile institutional balances in the region on the basis of convenience linked to strategic and economic alliances”, His Eminence said.

“The relocation of Christians is not and should not be arbitrarily decided on the basis of party interests. Rather, as citizens possessing equal dignity they must be recognized the possibility to remain as architects of unity and reconciliation.”

“It is rather disconcerting to note the short-sightedness of those who fail to recognize them as the leaven of society, capable of furthering the development of feelings enhancing the best dimensions of democracy, without having to import it by force as has been sadly experienced in the past decades”, the Cardinal said. “Christians should be allowed to remain and to return, if they were forced to flee against their will.

As human persons they are worth far more than any known or yet undiscovered oil, gas or arms deposit!

I’m afraid that the decrease –not to mention the extinction – of the historical Christian presence would sadly worsen the escalation of intra-confessional clashes within the Muslim world, which appeared to have been overcome centuries ago.”

 

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