Thursday, January 23, 2020

Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) meeting notes

Larnaca (AsiaNews) - Promote "ecumenical cooperation" between the Churches of the Middle East in the theological, social and media fields, with the aim of giving ever greater witness to Christ in a "unitified" perspective.

This is what the executive committee of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) asks, at the conclusion of the third meeting held on January 21 and 22 in Larnaca (Cyprus), chaired by John X Yazigi, patriarch of Antioch and Greek Orthodox primate. In the final release, Christian leaders also asked to pray for the "release" of Yohana Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, kidnapped in Syria in April 2013 and of whom there is no known information. People will have seen this month's updates that reported that they might have died some years ago.

The political and institutional situation in the various Middle East countries, marked by wars, ethnic-confessional violence and massive exodus are among the concerns of the members of the MECC, which underline the "escalation of tension" in the region and throughout the Arab world.

The meeting, held on the island disputed between the Greek Cypriot majority and the Turkish Cypriot minority, was also attended by Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean patriarch, Rev. Habib Badr, president of the Lebanese Evangelical Union and the Patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church Mar Ignatios Afram II.

Delegates from Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine were present at the third meeting of the executive committee. An appointment, the participants note, which comes in the midst of "bloody events and pains" that afflict the nations of the Middle East and in an atmosphere of "suffering, pain and challenges" for the peoples of the region, "including the Churches". For this reason they ask for greater "solidarity and closeness" to the "sons and daughters of the Eastern Churches", the first witnesses of Christ in a growing context of "challenges".

In the first of the two days of work, challenges were discussed in the areas of spiritual renewal, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, as well as the strengthening and institutional development of the Council itself. The second day was dedicated to the discussion of the report of the secretary general, Dr. Souraya Bechealany, which includes the results of the Council in 2019 and future prospects, also from a financial perspective.

The final declaration paid particular attention to Iraq and the anti-government protest movement which risks destabilizing a country already in difficulty. And again, the "suffering" of the Syrian people demanding an end to the siege and the resumption of a path that leads to the construction of peace and security, combined with the return of the displaced.

A thought is then dedicated to the Lebanese people and their peaceful protest, for a dignified life and the end of an endemic and widespread corruption that has fueled discontent. There was also praise for efforts to "restore unity on the island of Cyprus".

The Christian leaders call for greater support for churches in Palestine despite suffering "in light of the occupation, apartheid policy and isolation", along with respect for the legal status and status quo on East Jerusalem, the capital of a future Palestinian state .

The also addressed an invitation to all the peoples of the region to unite according to a criterion of "full citizenship" which is made up of "rights and duties" in a context of "diversity" which is a source of "wealth". The appointment is now set for the MECC general meeting, scheduled from 16 to 19 September in Lebanon with the motto "Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!" (Matthew, 14:27).


  1. "...also addressed an invitation to all the peoples of the region to unite according to a criterion of "full citizenship" which is made up of "rights and duties" in a context of "diversity" which is a source of "wealth..."

    I always wonder about statements like these, which are normative for these sorts of committees. Are such modernist/multi-cultural notions a reflection of the real mind of (most) of the committee? Are they reflective rather of a real politic - a kind of 'virtue signaling' to western secular powers that often (I don't know in this particar case) fund these sorts of gatherings?

    1. No. It's a practical appeal to nationalism versus the sectarian multiculturalism which is the historic norm for the Middle East. The Middle East could use a healthy dose of nationalism in its respective states.

      Ba'athism was a pan-Arabic nationalist movement started largely by Antiochian Orthodox intellectuals to convince the Muslims not to slaughter them after independence.

    2. I believe I see your point Anti-Gnostic. I wonder about this thinking's practical success so far, given its seeming total collapse in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq (without going in to complicating factors like USA invasions, etc.). Egypt perhaps is the last best hope for nationalism "working" from a minority Christian perspective.

      Still, do we (i.e. humanity) have successful examples of secular nationalism that embraces traditional western notions of "rights and duties, diversity" that itself is not tied western Christendom practically and historically? This is even before you ask if western Christiandom itself is not already at the point where you judge Christianity's ability to survive the acid of secularism to be questionable.