The key role played by young people during the transformations in the Arab world throughout the past year was a recurrent theme for the recent World Council of Churches (WCC) Christian-Muslim consultation on “Christian Presence and Witness in the Arab World.”
The consultation was organized by the WCC programs for Churches in the Middle East and Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation in collaboration with the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) in Antelias, Lebanon.
The consultation took place from Jan. 24-28 and brought together a number of religious leaders, scholars and young activists.
The participants’ passion and longing for political and religious freedom, human dignity and rights, and social and economic justice for all people of the Arab world marked the event.
The importance of equal citizenship for all was reiterated frequently. The politics and relationships between the values of citizenship and its links to religious institutions were debated.
Short but vivid sketches highlighted recent events, problems and signs of hope in a wide range of countries. It was acknowledged that in some parts of the Arab world, Christians and Muslims were afraid of the uncertainties that the future might bring.
However, it was also noted that the people of God must not deal in the currency of fear. It was important that the religions themselves were willing to become part of the process of transformation.
As one participant put it, “We need religious leaders who are willing to play a prophetic role, and to be people of vision and wisdom.”
A number of specific proposals and suggestions were put forward in the final communiqué of the meeting.
The consultation was one of a series of meetings being held in preparation for a major international ecumenical gathering on the Christian presence in the Middle East. The meeting is being planned by the WCC in partnership with the MECC, and is due to take place in December 2012.