Bishops of the Orient call for launching a civil state

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Bishops of the Orient call for launching a civil state

By Fr. Rif’at Bader

A few days ago, the Catholic Patriarchs of the East issued the 11th message which was addressed to the faithful wherever they live. This message has a special nature because it was issued in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring, in the aftermath of the bloody and radical changes that have impacted the people of the region, and in the aftermath of the demographic changes which the Christians of the Orient have been subjected to. These events snowballed into the descending of a bleak veil over the bright image of plurality in the countries of the Orient, particularly in the Arab countries. As this message is related to two grave situations, namely the tiring present and the vague future, the headline of the message was distinctive as it read: The Christians of the Orient Today: Fears and Hopes.”

The message is signed by seven heads of Eastern Catholic Churches, namely Latin, Roman Catholics, Maronites, Chaldeans, Syriac Catholics, Armenian Catholics and Catholic Copts. The message is based on the Holy Bible verse, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8). The message is divided into three chapters titled, “What to Tell our Believers?”, “What to Tell our Citizens?” and “What to Tell the Policy-makers in the West and in Israel?”

The message of the patriarchs addresses the believers saying: “Stay firm in your faith and in your homelands; contribute to their development whether you remain there or you are forcibly displaced; be makers of history in your countries no matter how harsh the people or the circumstances are.

The message addresses the rulers reiterating the need to renovate religious education, to take responsibility for the countries’ affairs and for dealing with the West, as well as for "facing the destruction and divisions the West wants to impose on us." The message underlines the need to address extremist views, to renew religious discourse, to promote a spirit of participation, and to promote "a spirit of affection as well as respect for religious and intellectual plurality."

The message addresses the West and Israel saying: “If you follow the road of death, then death will devour us all one day. Be alert; abandon your destructive policy towards our countries and towards us, the Christians in the Orient. It states that peace in Palestine, and Jerusalem in particular, is the key to peace in the region and in the West itself. This peace can provide a sincere environment and will to make peace.

What draws attention in the message is that it provides a solution to the dilemmas faced by the peoples of the region, as well as to the lack of harmony and of comfort. It calls explicitly, for the first time, for the establishment of a civil state, saying: “We want from our rulers to launch a civil state that ensures equality among all its citizens and avoids discrimination among its citizens based on religion or anything else. It is the state where every citizen enjoys equality with the other citizens. It is the state where all chances for life, ruling, and work are available regardless of religion. It is the state where citizens are brethren in the homeland enjoying the same rights and duties. The message indicates that "the civil state dissociates religion from state, but respects all religions and freedoms."

Many thanks go to their beatitude the patriarchs. Your message is the hands of your faithful, the rulers of the region, and the politicians of the West!

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