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It is ironic that we are more inclined to help birds migrate than people. And in migrations, as we know from birds, bees, salmon and elephants, migrants return. Why cannot Christians return to the Middle East if the cultural and social climate attracts them? Why should they be excluded from returning, as is often the case?

Particular concerns for the Middle East. What then should be our principal concerns about the situation and migration of Christians in the Holy Land and the rest of the Middle East?

First, we must assist those who live there. They are our brothers and sisters. They live in a negative environment; often discriminated against, they lack many opportunities we take for granted. They need our help.

Second, if we are truly concerned with this part of the world, we must use some of our influence on governments of the lands in which we live to change their national policies concerning the Middle East.

The preamble of Pope Paul VI’s revised constitution of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre states that one of the three characteristic virtues of its members is “a courageous struggle for justice and peace.”

Not only for members of the order but also for all Christians, issues of justice, peace, human rights and reconciliation, especially in the Holy Land and the Middle East, are of vital importance. Through advocacy in our home countries and our participation in the work of the local church, we help ensure that Christian values, Christian ethics and Christian criteria of judgment are being brought to the negotiating table.

A very practical contribution we can make is to help those who choose to migrate — facilitate their arrival, welcome them and assist their settlement. We can also advocate less restrictive immigration policies in the countries where we live.

Lastly, do not forget those who stay. We are concerned for their survival. They need our financial help, presence and visits, promotion of education and human development and our willingness at home to engage in the “courageous struggle for justice and peace.”

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Msgr. Stern is President of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine and Grand Officer of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

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Tags: Middle East Christians Christian-Muslim relations Emigration Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem