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Vatican: Middle East’s Future Depends on Dialogue, Christians

Rawan Al Kurdi, 5, holds her brother Ahmad at the Mafraq Refugee Center and Latin School in Mafraq, Jordan, in October 2014. The Syrian children fled to Jordan with their mother in 2012. Catholic Relief Services supports the center, which helps 40 children of Syrian refugees. (photo: CNS/Kim Pozniak, Catholic Relief Services) 

05 May 2015 – By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The future of the Middle East will depend on nations coming together to promote dialogue and development in the region and on local Christians staying active in society and politics, a top Vatican official said.

The international community cannot remain “inert or indifferent before the dramatic situation” unfolding in the Middle East because it has a special responsibility to “guarantee the presence of Christians and other minorities” in the region, said Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican’s foreign minister.

Countries “must go to the root of the problems, even recognize the mistakes of the past and try to promote a future of peace and development” by putting the human person and the common good before all else, he said on 30 April during an ecumenical conference on “Christians in the Middle East: What Future?” The Vatican newspaper published the archbishop’s speech on 2 May.

History has shown that choosing violence over dialogue and negotiations only multiples people’s suffering, he said at the conference, which was organized by the Sant’Egidio Community in Bari, southern Italy, 29-30 April.

In addition to needing more diplomatic efforts and development, more also must be done to stop the trafficking of arms to the region, he said.

The region’s Christians, who are experiencing increasing hardship and persecution in the area, are an important presence as they can “offer everyone a sign of hope and comfort” and build together with their fellow citizens “a more just and human society,” he said.

“From this perspective, the role of the family and laypeople in general is very important,” he said, emphasizing that greater formation in church teaching is needed so they can “take on responsibilities in the fields of politics and economics.”

While the lay faithful in every nation must be active in their communities and government, the archbishop said, the very difficult situation in the Middle East means remaining there “must be seen as a unique vocation.”

This is why Christians “must be encouraged to stay,” and the church must offer all kinds of support, including spiritual and economic.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ relief and development agency, has been working to support the Catholic Church in the Middle East so it can improve and expand the help it offers to those fleeing the violence and insecurity in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

“We support the church and its institutions, like schools and clinics, so they can play a bigger role in society” and help rebuild their country and assist those in need, said Kevin Hartigan, CRS’ regional director for Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia.

It is important that people not see Christians as helpless victims; “the church is not shriveled up in a corner,” hiding in fear, but is courageously present and offers an enormous amount of assistance considering its small size, he told Catholic News Service by phone from Baltimore on 4 May.

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Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Catholic