(Vatican Radio) The apostolic nuncios representing the Pope in the Middle East gathered at the Vatican this week for a three-day meeting to discuss the dire situation of violence and unrest in the region. The theme of the meeting was “The presence of Christians in the Middle East”.
A press brief, titled “No more war and violations of human rights!” was issued on Saturday at the conclusion of the Oct 2-4 meeting. In it, the nuncios call for an end to the multiple conflicts currently underway and to the grave violations of human rights.
In the brief, they emphasize:
- The urgency of delivering humanitarian assistance to those in need.
- Their concern about the ongoing trafficking of arms and of persons.
- The right of Christians and of the other religious groups to remain in their lands.
- Their concern for the violent activities of Islamic State.
- And the legitimacy of stopping the unjust aggressor, in accordance with international law.
Read the full brief below:
At the wish of the Holy Father, the Papal Representatives present in the Middle East were convoked to the Vatican, from 2 – 4 October, to reflect upon the dramatic situation in the region. Present at the meeting, which had as its theme “The presence of Christians in the Middle East”, besides the Superiors of the Secretariat of State, were also the Superiors of Dicasteries of the Roman Curia directly interested, as well as the Permanent Observers of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York and Geneva and the Apostolic Nuncio to the European Union.
The participants at the meeting expressed their gratitude to the Holy Father for this initiative and for his presence at the opening session of the meeting. The presence of the Nuncios of the region enabled the meeting to be given first-hand knowledge of the situation of Christians in the various countries concerned, as well as the context in which they are living. The Superiors of the various Dicasteries contributed in the facilitation of an overall view of the situation.
In expressing their closeness to the Patriarchs, to the Pastors and to the Christian faithful and to the other religious and ethnic components of the Middle East, they assured their prayers and that of the whole Church for all who are suffering as a result of the violence that rages throughout the region, especially in Syria and in Iraq. At the same time they reaffirmed the necessity to do everything possible to help them and to meet their needs, as called for many times by the Holy Father.
The situation of violence, which we risk becoming accustomed to, and taking for granted as an item of daily news, needs to stop. The participants of the meeting considered the urgency of putting an end to the wars under way which have already caused large numbers of victims. They denounced the violations from all sides of the most basic norms of humanitarian and international law, with a particular reference to the suffering of children and women. Regrettably, without any scruple, the trafficking of arms continues, and graver still is the trafficking of persons. After having examined the dramatic humanitarian situation, and its consequences suffered, among others, by the many internally displaced persons and the refugees in other countries, they underlined the pressing necessity of guaranteeing to all persons, without discrimination, the much needed humanitarian assistance.
The activity of some extremist groups is a cause of grave concern, particularly the so-called ‘Islamic State’, whose violence and abuses cannot be met with indifference. One cannot be silent, nor the international community remain inactive, in the face of the massacre of persons merely because of their religion or ethnicity, in the face of decapitations and crucifixions of human beings in public squares, in the face of the exodus of thousands of persons and the destruction of places of worship. The participants at the meeting reaffirmed that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor, always in accordance with international law. Nevertheless, the resolution of the problem cannot be entrusted solely to a military response; the problem must be dealt with more radically by addressing the root causes which are exploited by fundamentalist ideology. Religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim, should play an important role by cooperating together in promoting dialogue and education for the fostering of mutual understanding, and in denouncing clearly the instrumentalization of religion to justify violence.
Given the tragedy of many persons who have been forced to leave their homes in a brutal manner, the participants of the meeting reaffirmed the necessity of recognising the right of Christians and of the other ethnic and religious groups to remain in their lands of origin and, for those who are forced to emigrate, the right to return in conditions of adequate security, having the possibility of living and working in freedom and with prospects for the future. In the current circumstances this requires the commitment of both the Governments concerned and the international community. At stake are fundamental principles such as the value of life, human dignity, religious freedom and the harmonious and peaceful coexistence between persons and between peoples.
One cannot resign oneself to conceiving the Middle East without Christians, who for two thousand years have confessed the name of Jesus. They want to continue contributing to the good of society, integrated, as full citizens, in the social, cultural and religious life of the nations to which they belong. In them they play a fundamental role of peace-making, of reconciliation, and of development. The importance of the activity of the lay faithful in social and political life was reaffirmed, as was also the necessity of their adequate formation in this regard, including the social doctrine of the Church.