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Presentation Prepared By Mira Rizek for April 2011 The Common Global Ministries Board.

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1 Presentation Prepared By Mira Rizek for April 2011 The Common Global Ministries Board

2 The Christian Presence and Witness in the Middle East Problems, Challenges, and Prospects

3 The Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity and home to some of the world's most ancient Christian denominations. However, Christian communities across the region are declining in numbers because of wars, conflict, violence, persecution in some places, all leading to emigration

4 Source: BBC

5 Christians in the Middle East Egypt around 8 Million (which is 10% of population) Syria: 850,000 (which constitutes 4.5% of population) Jordan: 150,000 (which is 2.4% of population) Lebanon: 1.5 Million (which is 35% of population) Iraq: 850,000 (which constitutes 3% of population) Palestinian Territories: 50,000 (which is 0.8%) Israel: 150,000 (which is 2% of total population) Turkey: 85,000 (which constitutes 0.2% of population)

6 The Arab Spring: The Case of Egypt On 25 January 2011, massive non-violent demonstrations broke out in Cairo and soon extended to most main cities of Egypt 11 February 2011, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak will step down 13 February 2011, Parliament was dissolved Supreme Council of Armed Forces took over, and Egypt was put under military rule

7 The Arab Spring: The Case of Egypt 24 May, Mubarak ordered to stand trial on charges of premeditated murder of peaceful protestors If Convicted, Mubarak will face death penalty End result was that 846 people were killed, and over 6,000 injured Although Mubarak resigned, demonstration are continuing

8 The Arab Spring: The Case of Egypt This uprising is a broad based social movement centered around: freedom, social justice and dignity Although the uprising was not centered around religious-based politics, yet Islamic groups are controlling due to the absence of other organized opposition movements In the elections held in September 2011, the party named Liberty and Justice, the newly formed party of Moslem Brotherhood, gained 48.5% of polls

9 Situation of Christians in Egypt Even though many Christians participated in the protests in Tahrir Square in Cairo and many served the injured at clinics and hospitals, since the start of the uprising 100,000 Christian families have emigrated Christians hold less than 2% of the seats in the 2 legislative houses Religious divisions have led to violent confrontations between Moslems and Christians

10 Situation of Christians in Egypt Although mostly personal feuds: these have escalated to religious battles There is expectation that if Moslems win the elections, the Christians will escalate protests and demand democratic participation

11 The Situation in Syria The situation in Syria is more complex than seen in the headlines. Unlike the regimes that were overthrown in Egypt and Tunisia, the government still enjoys broad support among Syrians. The general feeling among the Christian communities is a deep concern based on the reality that : where the Arab Spring has flourished, political life has become more fanatic and less tolerant of recognizing equal rights.

12 The Situation in Syria Christians in Syria are very fearful of what might come of them should an extreme Sunni Islamic government take power in Damascus. Until now, Syrian Christians had felt reasonably safe under the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

13 The Situation in Lebanon The fortunes of Arab Christians have been on the decline for decades. The segregation and autonomy advocated by Egypt's Copts (and some Lebanese Christians) are counterproductive, while in Lebanon neither Christian MP Michel Aoun's populism, nor Patriarch Bechara Rai's support of the Syrian regime, can stop the rot.

14 The Situation in Lebanon Lebanon's Christians stand at a crossroads. They can either continuously concede power, or they can replace coexistence with a system that gives them – and everybody else – equal rights as citizens and equal access to power, regardless of population numbers. Emigration, which has taken its toll on more Christians than Muslims, continues.

15 Possibilities: The solution to the Christian problem will only come through secular Arab states that ignore religious and ethnic affiliations and respect all sects and ethnicities. While the idea is appealing, secular states in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt cannot be created overnight, and authorities should be convinced to relinquish their quest for the creation of Islamic or Islam-inspired states.

16 Possibilities…… In Lebanon and Syria, Christians have the best chance of creating such states, only if Christians are also aware and stop fighting for special rights that end up as privileges for their leaders and patriarchs while the average Christian packs and leaves. Lebanon's Christians stand at a crossroads. They can either continuously concede power, or they can replace coexistence with a system that gives them – and everybody else – equal rights as citizens and equal access to power, regardless of population numbers.

17 The Case of Palestine: Palestine 194 On 23 September 2011, Mohammad Abbas the Palestinian President submits an application for membership of Palestine for the UN Secretary General The Arab League endorsed in May 2011, and the PLO officially approved in June 2011 Palestinians seek collective recognition of the state of Palestine within 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as capital

18 The Case of Palestine: Palestine 194 Initiative developed over two years of impasse in the peace negotiations and continued massive construction of settlements by Israel Application will go to Security Council for Voting Israel has been withholding $100 million per month of tax collections from the PNA as a punitive measure

19 The Case of Palestine: Palestine 194 The U.S. Government, Canada, Germany and many others denounced the decision and called for a prompt return to negotiating table with Israel The U.S. government has threatened to stop USAID to Palestine and already froze its new funding for 2012. Many USAID staff have been laid off, and U.S. PVOs in WB/GS are downsizing U.S. government also reduced its funding for UNESCO after its recognition of Palestine as a state

20 Continued Risks ………. Emigration of Christians from the Middle East simultaneously affects their role in decision-making: despite their small numbers, the role of Christians in peace building, conflict transformation and public engagement is relatively influential. Possible war between Iran and Israel (with U.S. playing an instrumental role): if this happens, the region will be even more troublesome, and too late to save anything.

21 Recommendations for Global Ministries Support for the Region Christian witness and presence in the Middle East is a determining factor in peace building: continued conflict, poverty and violence will continue to adversely affect this. Therefore it is Critical for Global Ministries to continue to support humanitarian needs and sectors of population affected most by conflict

22 Recommendations for Global Ministries Support for the Region And continue to support to and engage with Christian institutions and civil society: through producing position papers, conducting educational tours / witness visits to church leaders and decision-makers

23 Recommendations for Global Ministries Support for the Region U.S. Administration continues to play a biased and negative role in terms of peace building based on justice and equity in the Middle East: There is dire need for: Targeted policy dialogue, educational campaigns and advocacy/lobbying with the U.S. Administration

24 Recommendations for Global Ministries Support: Palestine/Israel The BDS Campaign is worth Supporting: BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Campaign is an effective non-violent tool for peace building (It worked in South Africa!) Educate your Constituency on the Real Issues The KAIROS PALESTINE booklet is an excellent guide for congregational study, it has a list of thought- provoking questions to stimulate reflection and discussions

25 The Kairos Palestine Document ( Written in 2009 by a broad spectrum of Palestinian Christian leaders, this confession of faith is addressed to Palestinians, Israelis, the international community-- as well as all the churches of the world. It lifts up the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love that lie at the heart of the Christian Gospel, and affirms that resistance to injustice and oppression is firmly grounded in these principles. It is both an anguished cry in a dark hour and a profound testament to unquenchable hope.

26 Kairos Palestine Document The document also holds a clear position that non-violent resistance to this injustice is a right and duty for all Palestinians including Christians. Kairos Palestine, a Moment of Truth emphasis is on: Hope for liberation Non-violence Love of enemy Reconciliation Lifts up … the often neglected voice of Palestinian Christians

27 The Kairos Palestine Document ( This document is the Christian Palestinians word to the world about what is happening in Palestine. It is written at this time when we wanted to see the Glory of the grace of God in this land and in the sufferings of its people. In this spirit the document requests the international community to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering and clear apartheid for more than six decades.

28 Kairos Palestine Document Our word is a cry of hope, with love, prayer and faith in God. We address it first of all to ourselves and then to all the churches and Christians in the world: asking them to stand against injustice and apartheid urging them to work for a just peace in our region calling on them to revisit theologies that justify crimes perpetrated against our people and the dispossession of the land.

29 Let us Not Lose Hope It is our deep belief that helps us survive, let us not lose hope and let us not lose our strong belief that God is Justice Let us Pray: To you Oh Lord, I lift my Soul….Make me to know your ways, O LORD, teach me your Paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation, for you I wait all day long. Amen (25 th Psalm)

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