Al-Liqa’ Center for Religious and Heritage Studies in the Holy Land

The Christian and Muslim Arabs’ Heritage Conference in the Holy Land
23rd Session

“The 2011 Arab Uprisings and their Impact: Locally, Regionally and Internationally”

15-17 September 2011
Bethlehem Hotel – Bethlehem

 Photo album
Conference program

Al-Liqa’ Center for Religious and Heritage Studies in the Holy Land held its annual Christian-Muslim Dialogue Conference focusing in the proceedings, 15-17 September 2011, on the 2011 Arab Uprisings (The Arab Spring). Participants included leading political, social, religious and educational figures from the West Bank, Jerusalem and Galilee.

Opening ceremonies on Thursday 15 September 2011 included speeches by the Governor of the Bethlehem Governorate ‘Abd Al-Fattah Hamayel who said that Palestinians respect the wishes of the Arab peoples but we do not interfere in the internal affairs of any Arab country. Jack Khazmo, Editor of Jerusalem’s Al-Bayader As-Siyasi asserted that no one can stand in the way of the wishes, desires and demands of the people since the people are the source of sovereignty. Minister of prisoners and liberated ones, ‘Isa Qararqe’, said that Palestinian trek to the United Nations is an important step that would put an end to American and Israeli hegemony calling in the process for Palestinian Unity and reconciliation (Musalaha) between Hamas and Fateh. Dr. Geries Khoury, Director of Al-Liqa’ Center, surveyed lessons learned from the Arab Spring uprisings including the ability to stand in the face of Arab regimes’ tyranny and restoring the Palestinian problem back to Arab hearts. Mr. Musa Darwish, Deputy Director of Al-Liqa’ moderated the opening ceremonies. Refreshments followed.

The proceedings of the conference began with a lecture by Prof. Thiab ‘Ayyoush on the Arab uprisings and reasons and motives behind them. Doctor Peter Qumri moderated this lecture. Prof.’Ayyoush focused on factors that led to the uprisings including political, social and economic factors and not to mention the absence of freedoms, corruption and inability to absorb differences in society.

Dr. Bernard Sabella focused in his lecture on the impact of foreign interference in Arab uprisings. His lecture was moderated by Prof. Qustandi Shomali. According to Dr. Sabella the West’s own interest in the region is based on stability regardless who rules in order to secure interest in petroleum. Economic factors play a big role in Western involvement as seen in their interference in some of the Arab revolts. Following deep and frank discussion by conferees, the proceeding of the first day was concluded with a dinner.

In the second day of the conference, 16 September 2011, a Christian and a Muslim invocation by Bishop Bustrus Muallem and Attorney ‘Ali Rafi’ inaugurated the proceedings. The first lecture of Dr. Eyad Al-Bargouthy was summarized and read by Doctor Nasri Qumsiyyeh, the moderator of the lecture, who said that the stand toward the Palestinian problem is the real measure of whether the Arab uprisings are serious about their nationalistic and spiritual belonging. Following deep discussions of Al-Bargouthi’s paper, conferees took a Friday prayer and lunch breaks.

The afternoon session began with a lecture by Ahmad Ghneim which was moderated by Zoughbi Zoughbi. Ghneim focused on three elements surrounding the Arab uprisings: the Arab uprising itself, the international factor and the stand of the previous regimes. The lecturer also emphasized constant Western political interests: protecting Israel, protecting petroleum, and fighting terror after 9/11/2001.

Ms. Zahira Kamal followed with a lecture on the Arab uprisings and the quest for democracy and social justice. Ms. Kamal pointed out ways to achieve these goals of the uprisings and social justice. Mrs. Hanadi Soudah moderated this lecture.

Dr Mahmoud Yazbek of the University of Haifa lectured on historical transformations that led to the uprisings in the media as well as changes in the cultural and social infrastructures. Deep and frank discussions by the conferees followed each lecture.

In the third day (17 September 2011) of the conference proceedings began in the aftermath of Christian-Muslim invocations by Bishop Butrus Mu’allem and Attorney ‘Ali Rafe.

The first lecturer by Dr. Al-Mutawakel Taha focused on the role of the educated ones in the Arab Uprisings. The lecturer focused on the types of the educated and the creative as well as the reactionary ones. The most effective type is the one who is totally committed to his people. Attorney ‘Al Rafi’ moderated the lecture.

A panel comprised of Rev. Dr. Rafiq Khoury and Sheikh Jamil Hamami followed. Father Rafiq focused on present popular uprisings which have not produced new leadership that is required to lead to a new and better reality. His focus was the Egyptian Uprising as symbol of other uprisings. He warned of the “Devil of sectarianism” which is deeply rooted in our societies.

Sheikh Hamami had a very positive view of the Arab uprisings and quoted from the Al-Azhar document which calls for tolerance… like the document of Najran which was developed earlier by the Prophet and the companions. This panel was moderated by Dr. Geries S. Khoury.

The proceedings of the conference were concluded with a panel on “Where the Arab world is heading” which was moderated by Musa Darwish. ‘Ala Al-‘Azzah focused on theoretical background of despotism and the present uprisings. On the other hand Dr. Mahdi ‘Abd Al-Hadi pointed out that the Ottomans are returning through the gates of Gaza with a new secular discourse. He added that we see the beginning of the end of political Islam and questioned Palestinian indifference toward the PLO.

Following deep and frank discussions in the above mentioned panels, Dr. Geries S. Khoury read:

The Final Communiqué of the 23rd Session of the 2011 Conference

It was apparent in recent years and decades that the Arab world was overwhelmed with tyranny and unable to stand up and to play an important role like other peoples in the World. With this background the Arab Uprisings took place to change present realities. It all started in Tunisia in late 2010 and early 2011. The first Arab Uprising took place as a result of economic inequalities, absence of democracy and freedom, until then the world thought of the Arab peoples as human sheep led by autocratic rulers who wanted to maintain the rule with the help of small circles of family members, relatives and friends.

But Arab youngsters whose horizons of the world have been expanding through education and the mass media of the internet... etc were able to attract millions in various fields of knowledge to demand changes in present tyrannical realities.

But there are those whose vested interests in the area’s wealth are quick to offer billions of dollars to these countries with the uprisings.

For some it appears even that the Palestinian problems has been marginalized in these uprisings. Despite of that the Palestinian problem, remains the central focus in the Arab world now. In the past all major developments in the Arab region have to do with the Palestinian problem.

We, in Palestine, are an integral part of our Arab nation. Our Palestinian problem will be affected by the uprisings. For the Arab Spring of 2011 means the setting up of an independent state with Arab East Jerusalem as its capital. None of the Arab masses have forgotten that this Palestinian quest is a holy duty of every Arab in this great Arab nation. And even though the people of the nation were unable to perform this holy duty, nowadays with the uprisings the masses’ voices are loud and clear with the Palestinians and their leaders demanding, among others, all countries of the world including the United Nations and the Security Council to recognize the Palestinian state on the 4th of June 1967 boundaries.

Christian Muslim relations likewise, are deeply impacted by the changes taking place in the region. For this relation is not in isolation from movements in the Arab world. It is affected by it and it is affecting it. If masses are not totally awakened to this reality, this relationship can become a toy in the hands of vested interests of this or that group who are intending to poison this relation.

We are witnessing a new phenomenon in the Arab world. The final chapter has not been written or realized yet. Arab uprisings / Arab Spring must be focused in its trek toward the best interests of the nation. Hope is the key despite doubts and fears. But Hope is not enough. It is necessary that all Arab abilities and energies must be focused in order to realize this Hope economically, culturally, socially, politically and religiously. With Hope and Work Arab people will arrive safely to the shore of the better reality that the Arab Uprisings are seeking.