Christian emigration from the Middle East is impoverishing Arab culture and Muslims have a duty to encourage the presence of Christian minorities, a Lebanese government adviser has told a Vatican summit.
(Photo: Bishops at a Mass opening of the synod of bishops from the Middle Eastern at the Vatican, 10 Oct 2010/Tony Gentile)
The rise of political Islam in the Middle East poses a threat to Christians in the Arab world and must be faced together, a senior cleric told a synod of Catholic bishops on Monday.
Al Qaeda’s north African arm wants a repeal of a ban on the Muslim face veil in France, the release of militants and 7 million euros to free hostages who include five French, Al Arabiya TV said on Monday. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is holding seven foreigners in the Sahara desert after kidnapping them last month.
Austria’s resurgent far-right party won over a quarter of the vote in Vienna’s provincial election as voters took their discontent to the ballot box, reflecting a wider European trend as voters concerned about the economic crisis and integration of Muslims turn to rightist parties.
(Photo: Worshippers pack the first Mass at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Doha, March 15, 2008/Fadi Al-Assaad)
Every Friday in the Muslim Gulf Arab state of Kuwait, 2,000 worshippers cram into a 600-seat church or listen outside to the mass relayed on loudspeakers, prompting their Roman Catholic bishop to worry about a stampede. “If a panic happens, it will be a catastrophe … it is a miracle that nothing has happened,” said Bishop Camillo Ballin.
After a panicky mass flight from his Christian village, Sami Abi Daher watched from across the valley as Syrian-backed Druze fighters burned and looted it. That was back in 1983 when battles forced tens of thousands of Christians from their homes in the Aley and Shouf hills near Beirut in a bloody postscript to Israel’s 1982 invasion.
In the land where Jesus lived, Christians say their dwindling numbers are turning churches from places of worship into museums. And when Christian pilgrims come from all over the world to visit the places of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, they find them divided by a concrete wall.
Minarets and church towers mingle on Cairo’s skyline, but tensions mar Egypt’s record of religious coexistence and a perception of growing intolerance is leading some Christians to shun their Muslim compatriots.
With Christianity dwindling in its Middle Eastern birthplace, Pope Benedict has convened Catholic bishops from the region to debate how to save its minority communities and promote harmony with their Muslim neighbours.
Franciscan Father David Jaeger is one of the Roman Catholic Church’s most authoritative experts on the Middle East. Until a few weeks ago, he was the delegate of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land in Rome. A convert from Judaism who became a Roman Catholic priest in 1986, he is a noted canon lawyer. He was part of the Vatican team that negotiated diplomatic relations with Israel in 1994 and is part of the Vatican team that is still ironing out the final subsidiary details of that accord. He spoke to Reuters and Reuters Television about the upcoming Mideast synod in the atrium of Antonianum University in Rome. Here is a transcript of parts of the conversation.