Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا abouna.org
I was invited by the Arab Thought Forum to talk on "Christians of the East and their contribution to civilization in the past, at present, and in the future". It was not easy to sum up this permanent and continuous contribution in a few minutes, yet it was an opportunity to express a point of view, especially in light of the “concerns” that analysts refer to with regards to the future. We have frequently heard reports about the “issue” of the Christians of the East, especially after many of them have been subjected to restrictions, confinement, and forced displacement, as has been the case with the Christians of Mosul… of course without ignoring the gradual evacuation of the Palestinians from noble Jerusalem by the Israeli occupation forces. The meeting was enriched with views expressed by of intellectuals which included Director of the Form Dr. Mohammad Abu Hammour, Sheikh Dr. Mohammad Al-Naqri of Lebanon, Dr. Bernard Sabella of Jerusalem, Dr. Hayel Al-Daoud, Dr. Jamal Al-Shalabi, Dr. Marcel Jwainat, and Ms. Rula Sama'in of Jordan.
I dedicated my address to two noble ladies. The first one is deceased researcher Fadwa Nuseir who passed away last year after writing book years ago titled, “Christian Arabs and the Concept of Arab Nationalism 1840-1918”. In this book she explained that Christian Arabs have made clear contributions to the renaissance of their countries, as well as the emergence of national ideas and activating them in the context of Arab life. The second lady is martyr Shireen Abu Aqleh, whose funeral took place in a church inside noble Jerusalem to show that the Christians were never spectators regarding issues relevant to their nation, but rather were active contributors who made dear sacrifices for its sake.
Throughout the ages, the Christians have been subjected to numerous harassments which included their entire societies and led to suffering, calamities and limited presence. However, for Christians to remain “the light of the East” and “the salt of the Earth,” according to Lord Jesus Christ, as well as to maintain their distinctive presence, its meek flavor, as well as their clear and venerable contributions in all fields, they are as has been the case in the past, at present, and in the future active in the academics, cultural, economic, and political fields as well as in the army, while they work sincerely for the advancement of their societies.
The past abounds with the Christians' contributions to the regeneration, growth, and stability of their societies. As for the present of Christians-- and apart from the issue relevant to numbers and percentages of presence--it follows the rhythm of the countries in which they live, and it sometimes rebuilds itself as is the case in the countries of the so-called Arab Spring, or restores the war-caused destruction such as in Iraq and Syria, or tries to free itself from narrow political sectarianism, which no longer ensures security and stability as is the case in Lebanon, or in completing the process of benevolence and a distinguished presence as is the case in Jordan where Christians make clear contributions through their churches, schools, and non-profit associations that provide assistance to human beings regardless of their religious affiliation or country of origin.
As for the outlook and the future, it does not depend on Christians on their own, because they are not isolated groups in this dear and painful East that longs for better days to come. They still experience civilized partnership with their Muslim brethren and stand hand-in-hand in front of God in the service of humanity. The future is built through maintaining plurality and continued enhancement of the values of citizenship and equality, as well as by consolidating the bridges of affection and cooperation among the remaining Christians of the East and their brethren who emigrated, whether it was a voluntary one or it is forced displacement. The future is also built on consolidating the ecumenical endeavor (or unity among the churches), so as to be wholeheartedly united, as well as on continuing the efforts in the various countries of the East to set stable and empowering values of democracy and open participation for all in various fields.