Continental Synodal Assembly of Catholic Churches concludes. Syriac Chaldean patriarch says Middle Eastern governments have wronged their Christian communities

HARISSA, Lebanon — On February 17, the Continental Synodal Assembly of the Catholic Churches of the Middle East concluded in Beit ‘Anya, Harissa, Lebanon, after one week of sessions. The Synod of Catholic Churches, among them representatives of the Syriac Catholic, Syriac Chaldean, and Syriac Maronite Church, gathered to discuss their concerns over the situation of Christians in the Middle East and their future priorities in cooperation.

After many sessions, the final statement of the Synodal Assembly emphasized their “unity in diversity through unity in communion and the mission and testimony of churches.” It opens its doors to the talents of seculars in the service of Christ and makes special mention of the role of women – emphasizing the importance of their participation in decision-making and service – and the youth saying that “their capabilities and their expectations for a renewed church reflect the challenges they face”.

Overall, a good week of listening, getting closer together and trying to draw a common plan together for the future.

Syriac Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis I Sako published his thoughts and comments, in which he recalled that Christians as the indigenous inhabitants of the region “had a wonderful role in the Umayyad era and in the scientific renaissance in the Abbasid era. Their skills and knowledge contributed in translating Greek knowledge into the Syriac and Arabic languages through establishing a fine cultural institution, the House of Wisdom.” And; “Now, Christians have become a numerical minority in their homelands. However, they are a qualitative minority with their proud culture, skills, and devotion to their homelands. They still represent hope for their peoples.”

The Syriac Chaldean church hierarch pointed out that the successive crises, especially the many violent conflicts and the increase in extremism that have fueled hatred in the last two decades, have greatly affected social life in the societies of the Middle East. In addition, there was an escalation in sectarian mentality, and an increase in the dominance of armed militias and political and economic corruption due to the lack of strong and deterrent state forces and enforcement of the law.

Mar Louis Sako indicated that the Church, from its patriotic duty, has tried to safeguard the Christian presence, but that it cannot take the place of the state regardless of the Church’s influence in society. For him, state officials have proven incapable in guaranteeing the rights of all citizens. The state has failed to deal with its citizens’ concerns and establish rules of mutual respect and human and national partnership.

The neglect and difficulties experienced by Christians are of particular concern to Mar Louis Sako. The constitutional rights of Christian communities have not been fully defended which has prompted Christians to emigrate. The role of religious references in spreading the culture of recognition, respect and acceptance of the other and religious faith should be much more emphasized. Only such a humane and patriotic feeling can lead to agreement, harmony, social responsibility and joint action for the benefit of all.