Displaced Iraqi Christians who fled from Islamic State militants in Mosul pray at a school acting as a refugee camp in Irbil, Iraq, Sept. 6. Irbil now hosts more than 100,000 displaced Christians and other minorities. Some Christians who have fled Iraq say they do not want to return CNS photo/Ahmed Jadallah, Reuters

Bishops urge Arab, Muslim countries to help preserve Christian presence

By  Doreen Abi Raad, Catholic News Service
  • March 16, 2015

BEIRUT - Maronite Catholic bishops urged Arab and Muslim countries to combat terrorism in order to preserve the Christian presence in the Middle East.

In a statement issued following a special Synod March 10-14 at Bkerke, the patriarchal seat for Maronites, the bishops from throughout the Middle East urged Christians to try to "bear the current storm" and to preserve their ties to their homeland.

"At the same time," the bishops said they demand that "Arab and Muslim countries assume their historic responsibilities by fighting against extremism and fanaticism" and to protect "the Christian existence, which plays a key role in the history of the Arab world and its Muslim-Christian civilization."

They also called on Arab states to "support Lebanon and help it out of the state of political, economic and security crisis caused by the wars and conflicts in the Middle East."
Noting that Lebanon is a founding member of the League of Arab States, the bishops said Lebanon "represents a stability factor, an oasis of encounter and dialogue" in the region and is a "strong advocate" for civil liberties and democracy.

The bishops also encouraged Lebanese expats to remain "closely linked" to their homeland.

The bishops deplored Lebanon's presidential vacuum and its detrimental effect on political, security, economic and social levels. Lebanese lawmakers failed for the 20th time March 11 to elect a new president. The post, held by a Maronite Catholic, has been vacant since May 2014 when President Michel Suleiman's term ended.

In this season of Lent, the bishops said they hope "for the resurrection of our countries and peoples on the basis of reconciliation, peace and freedom."

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