Religious panorama of 2014

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Religious panorama of 2014

Fr. Rif'at Bader

The year 2014 is reminiscent of political and humanitarian events, as well as universal religious initiatives aimed at spreading the culture of love and dialogue in addition to continuing the sincere prayers for peace in the world.

Addressing the "religious issue" neither means, of course, delving into the private affairs of a certain religion by excluding the other, nor meddling in affairs relevant to interaction and harmony among religions or within the same religion and within the "community" itself.

Without going into details and dates relevant to this year which will come to an end after "few hours", we state that among the most complicated issues are those related to religion-based extremism and violence, or those who manipulate religion for political purposes and personal interests.

The issue of violence, extremism, and elimination of the others has prevailed especially in Iraq, which unveiled in 2014 a tragedy and persecution directed against indigenous religious components, especially towards the Christians who were faced with a bitter option, namely to be expelled--based on the orders of the extremism and terrorism organization—from the country where their civilized contributions are recognized by the whole world. The Christians in Iraq contributed over the centuries to building their country and society and were keen to ensure its safety.

Jordan found itself anew facing a new wave of exodus where the doors and the airports were wide open. A total of 7,000 displaced Iraqis arrived in Jordan fleeing the oppression of "their kins". Most of them were Christians, who along with other haven-seeking people contributed to one of the largest international problems and economic cases of distress.

Jordan had indeed opened its arms wide for those seeking political and security asylum. But this time it is extremely bitter as the "Christians in Mosul," who arrived were religiously displaced, simply because they are different, being one of the cornerstones of pluralism which has always decorated the Orient.

A few weeks prior to the bitter displacement, Pope Francis was in Jordan and Palestine, namely in the Holy Land, meeting refugees who arrived in Jordan coming from Syria and Iraq, and west the River Jordan in the Dheisheh and Aida refugee camps. He also stood in front of the deaf and mute barrier that is sneaking through the territorial integrity of the homeland.

To sum up the Pope's visit in 2014, I would rather reiterate Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem's 2014 Christmas homily. He said: "During his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, His Holiness Pope Francis stopped in front of the wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem; he bowed and prayed. The world might forget all the addresses Pope Francis made during his visit, but his brief stop before the wall will not be forgotten. Through his prayers, Pope Francis equally wished to bring down the immaterial walls established in hearts and minds: the walls of hatred, fear and arrogance."

In Jordan, the Pope touched the hearts with the humility and simplicity of his character. He touched the sick, the disabled and the refugees as a sign of fraternal and paternal solidarity. He also touched the Jordan River, creating an incentive for religious tourism. The employees in tourism must benefit form from the fourth papal visit well.

As I write these lines in Jerusalem, I pray that the new year will witness respect for human dignity, cessation of bloodshed, and give the oppressed people their rights to dignity and freedom, as well as the right of every person to freely practise religious rites in an atmosphere where the spirit of good citizenship and real equality prevails.

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