Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Vatican's Guidelines for Mideast Synod Released.

Fantastic Howard Friedman at ReligionClause notes that the Catholic Church has released its Guidelines for Mideast Synod. And he pulls out some of the points the Vatican wishes to focus on in October.

The Vatican yesterday released a document titled Guidelines for Mideast Synod. The synod, scheduled for Oct. 10-24, is expected to attract some 150 bishops, mostly from Eastern rite churches. Haaretz reports that there are some 17 million Christians in the Middle East from Iran to Egypt. Many Christians have fled, but many others (primarily from Philippines, India and Pakistan) have arrived in Arab lands in recent years to work in domestic or manual labor. Here are some excerpts from the lengthy Guidelines:

18. Political conflicts in the region have a direct influence on the lives of Christians, both as citizens and as Christians. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories makes daily life difficult with regard to freedom of movement, the economy and religious life (access to the Holy Places is dependent on military permission which is granted to some and denied to others on security grounds). Moreover, certain Christian fundamentalist theologies use Sacred Scripture to justify Israel's occupation of Palestine, making the position of Christian Arabs even more sensitive.

19. In Iraq, the war has unleashed evil forces within the country, religious confessions and political movements, making all Iraqis victims. However, because Christians represent the smallest and weakest part of Iraqi communities, they are among the principal victims, with world politics taking no notice.

20. In Lebanon, Christians are deeply divided at a political and confessional level, without a commonly acceptable plan of action. In Egypt, the rise of political Islam, on the one hand, and the disengagement of Christians from civil society on the other, lead to intolerance, inequality and injustice in their lives. Moreover, this Islamisation also penetrates families through the media and school.... In many countries, authoritarianism or dictatorships force the population - Christians included - to bear everything in silence....

22. In the Middle East, freedom of religion customarily means freedom of worship and not freedom of conscience, i.e., the freedom to change one's religion for belief in another. Generally speaking, religion in the Middle East is a social and even a national choice, and not an individual one. To change religion is perceived as betraying a society, culture and nation, founded largely on a religious tradition.

23. Conversion is seen as the fruit of a proselytism with personal interests attached and not arising from authentic religious conviction. Oftentimes, the conversion of Jews and Muslims is forbidden by State laws. Christians, though also subjected to pressure and opposition from families and tribes - even if less severely - remain free to change their religion. Many times, the conversion of Christians results not from religious conviction but personal interests or under pressure from Muslim proselytism, particularly to be relieved from obligations related to family difficulties.

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