PARIS CONFERENCE: A VOICE FOR MIDDLE EASTERN CHRISTIANS
“(This day) is an important moment, a turning point in the solidarity manifested between the religions and the determination to fight the extremists”
These were the opening words of Patrick Karam, President of the Coordination of Eastern Christians in Danger (CREDO) when dozens of representatives of Eastern churches, Muslim dignitaries and parliamentarians congregated for an International Conference in Paris on Tuesday, December 11, 2018.
The conference was held at the initiative of the CREDO to sign the International Proclamation of Paris against discrimination and violence against Eastern Christians and other minorities and call for an end to the violence and discrimination suffered by religious minorities in the region.
“This is the first time that Christian and Muslim clerics have come together to denounce, unambiguously, as contrary to Islam and as crimes against humanity the terrorist acts of organizations like Daesh,” he said, alerting to the “phenomenon of haemorrhage” striking the Christian populations of the Near and Middle East.
Speaking about the event, National Director of ACN Malta, Mr Stephen Axisa who was a guest speaker at the Conference said:
“There is the will, from all parties- the various Church denominations as well as the Muslim communities. Now the next step is the way forward as to how to materialize this in a tangible form”.
“We have suffered genocide ,” said Bishop Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Mosul. We are suffering massacres and genocide in front of the eyes of the whole world. It’s a shame for humanity. ” A genocide that came a century after the Armenian genocide.
In turn, representatives of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Evangelical Protestant churches recalled the disappearance of the two Orthodox bishops – who have not been heard of since April 2013 – and the plight of the 5.6 million Syrians forced to flee their homes during almost eight years of war.
Representatives of Sunni and Shiite Islam also spoke out against the crimes committed by Daesh and, more broadly, by the fundamentalist organizations. Dr Abdel Meneem Fouad, the representative of the great Imam of Al Azhar, Sunni, also spoke, “condemning the chaos created by the extremists”. On his part, Sheikh Al Sayyed, Saleh Al-Hakim, Shiite Iran, denounced “the development of extremists in the 1970s, cancer in the national body, and we cannot deny it” asserting that “these extremists are Muslims and are part of the Muslim community “.
Bishop Angélos, Coptic Orthodox Bishop-General of Egypt, representing Pope Tawadros II, called for “the renewal of religious thought to spread the values of tolerance and peace”.
“The East needs to be rescued in action, not in words! We Christians of the East suffer from marginalization: this conference is important because it allows us to communicate our suffering to the world “, Bishop Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Mosul emphasized.
To this end, they called on the international community to support the return of Christians and religious minorities to their lands, including building schools and places of worship.
“The international proclamation of Paris must be a landmark,” said the representative of the Syriac Patriarch of Antioch. And, three days after the beatification of the martyrs of Algeria, it can be a reason for hope for persecuted Eastern Christians. Christians, who, Bishop Ignace Al Hochi assures him, ” [will] stay on this earth and will not leave”.