Wednesday, 20 April 2011

'Universal Catholicism' in the Maghreb and the Mashriq

Brussels Intern, Chris shares his experience of a COMECE conference.

Recently COMECE held a two day conference on the decades of diplomatic deadlock and conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa. The various speeches and debates were dedicated to Christian Churches in Maghreb and Mashriq, with COMECE Bishops warmly encouraging the citizens to continue their commitment towards the establishment of fundamental rights and democracy in the affected regions.

Seeing as the revolutions, or rather uprisings (the word revolution was concluded to insinuate the over-use of violence) were launched by the younger generation, the conference took time to pay special tribute to them, who in all the countries concerned played a leading role by initiating and organising this uprising in a courageous, peaceful and ecumenical way.

Despite their minority population, Christians in these countries share a common citizenship with their fellow citizens from other religions; each religion forms an integral part of their societies. After having had the benefit of hearing from several experts from the Arab world and
from the EU institutions, the following recommendations to were made to the EU:

- How more and concrete solidarity among the Member States of the EU is urgently needed in facing the inflow of migrants and refugees from North Africa and the Middle East.
- How the EU should help in improving the deplorable situation in these countries by developing new tools to efficiently foster modernisation and democratisation in their societies
- In the context of changes in the Arab world, how the EU should stress the importance of granting equal rights to all citizens of those countries, irrespective their ethnic or religious origin.

Throughout the conference the importance of inter-religious dialogue was clearly placed in the limelight. Dialogue should be a two-way communication, which implies speaking and listening, giving and receiving, for mutual growth and enrichment. Under the often overly brandished-about umbrella term of inter-religious dialogue is included the witness to one's own faith as well as an openness to that of the other. It was made clear how it is not a betrayal of mission of the Church, nor how it should be a new methodology of conversion to Christianity.

Finally, comments were made to the insecurity and threats that Christian minorities are ever more having to put up with in the Arab World. COMECE expressed similar concern about the way religious minorities are sometimes treated in Europe and therefore called upon all citizens, especially Christians, and the political leaders in Europe to assume their responsibilities for promoting dialogue between cultures and civilisations in Europe as well as in the rest of the world.

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