Al-Liqa’ Center for Religious and Heritage Studies in the Holy Land
Theology and the Local Church in the Holy Land Conference
“On the Steps of the Arab Christian Heritage in Palestine”
10-12 January 2014
Manger Square Hotel - Bethlehem
Religious figures, academicians, educators and tens of others from Galilee, the Triangle, the West Bank and Jerusalem, both Christians and Muslims, participated in the 3 day conference as well as in the Christmas celebration evening in the first day of the conference. The conference discussed an important subject, that is “Christian Arab heritage throughout the ages and its importance”. Each lecture and panel was followed with in-depth discussion with a stress on the importance of the subject for both Christians and Muslims and their national unity and shared living.
The inaugural session began on Friday afternoon, 10 January 2014. The moderator, Dr. Geries S. Khoury, introduced Bishop Mar Swerios Malki Murad, Bishop Atallah Hanna and Fr. Dr. Rafiq Khoury, all of whom stressed the importance of Christian Arab Heritage. Bishop Malki Murad, in addition, focused on the role of Assyrians in contributing to this heritage.
This opening session was followed with a power point lecture on “The Arab Christian heritage and its characteristics” by Fr. Dr. Gian Maria Giannaza which was moderated by Dr. Charlie Abu Sa’da.
A very colorful Christmas evening celebrations followed and was concluded with a dinner for those attending the celebrations and the conference.
On Saturday the 11th of January 2014, the day began with prayer and contemplation by ‘Atef Bahhuth followed by power point lecture on “Palestine’s Monasteries and their role in furthering Christian Arab Heritage” by Fr. Dr. Louis Hazboun which was moderated by Dr. Adnan Musallam.
This lecture was followed with another lecture by Fr. Yousef Riziq which focused on “Arab Christian Heritage in Palestine: a Case Study of Sulaiman Al-Ghazzi (and his Poetry)”. Mr. Yousef Mattar was the moderator.
Following a lunch break conferees returned to listen to a power point lecture by Bishop Boulos Marcuzzo on “The Arab Christian Heritage in Palestine: A Case Study of Al-Tabarani” which was moderated by Dr. Peter Qumri. This lecture was followed with a lecture by Dr. Geries S. Khoury on “The Arab Christian Heritage in Palestine: A Case Study of St. Sophronios, Patriarch of Jerusalem” which was moderated by Mr. Mousa Darwish.
Following a coffee break, Father Dr. Rafiq Khoury lectured on “Ecumenical Texts from Christian Arab Heritage and their Impact” which was moderated by Mrs. Sima Ghawali.
In the third day of the conference, proceedings began with some Christmas hymns by ‘Amer Baba and prayer and contemplation by Bishop Boutros Mu’allem. These were followed by a power point lecture on “The Arabic Icons in General and in Palestine in Particular.” Which was moderated by Mr. Souheil Makhoul. Following a coffee break a panel comprising Fr. Dr. Jamal Khader and Dr. Jhonny Mansour examined in depth “This is our Heritage: What to do next?” The moderator of the panel was Mr. Ziad Shlewit.
Following the panel, Dr. Geries S. Khoury summarized the proceedings of the conference and thanked all conferees, lecturers, panelists as well as the preparatory committee and especially Fr. Dr. Rafiq Khoury and all employees in Al-Liqa Center who exerted the efforts in order to make the proceedings of the conference successful.
Dr. Khoury then read the final communiqué of the conferees.
From the depth of our feelings of faith and suffering and our belonging to the Arab nation and its humanistic message and from our daily observance of the flow of blood on the soil of Arab countries caused by violence and terrorism supported by Muslim religious fanatic and extremist groups, and supported and financed by some Arab and Western countries; we pray for a peace for future. Unfortunately, all these massacres are done in the name of democracy and religion. We reject terrorism, violence, hate, explosions, kidnapping of Christians and Muslims, and condemn such atrocities and call for all parties to put end to it and to gather around one table to discuss their problems and find solutions which could help all to live in freedom and dignity.
Al-Liqa’ Center and all conferees in the 21st session of the conference clearly reject terrorism taking place in Iraq, Syria and Egypt and demand international organizations to put an end to this catastrophic situation through dialogue between warring factions which would lead to freedom and life with dignity for all citizens.
Conferees recommended the following:
1. We, Christian Arabs, are proud of our Arabism. We need to take a clear stand against those wanting to classify us as “Christian” in our identity card inside of Israel. We strongly oppose to the proposal by the racist member of the Kenesset (Israeli Parliament) Yariv Levin who wants to give us privileges while ignoring fellow Muslims. We are aware of the main goal of such proposal –divide and rule - and because of its goal we oppose and reject it.
2. Summary of all proceedings of Al-Liqa’s conferences must be taught in schools in general and in Christian private schools in particular. There must be demand to include Christian Arab heritage in school curricula of private schools which are owned and operated by Christians. Also, there is a need to complete the new curricula for Christian religious education which requires students to study Christian religious education and Arab Christian Heritage as well as Muslim Arab Heritage.
3. There is a need to develop specialists and researchers to study the Arab Christian heritage through scholarships to support M. A. , doctoral and post doctoral researchers.
4. The conferees are appealing to Al-Liqa’ Center to photograph all Arab Christian manuscripts or photocopying them from Palestinian monasteries and libraries and to preserve them in Al-Liqa’s Library.
5. To sponsor a series of serious dialogue between Muslim and Christian religious figures in order to develop a tighter link between the Children of the one people in order to live in dignity.
6. To write and publish a book which contains the pillars of Islam as well as the teachings of Christianity.
7. The need for the Arabization of non-Arab words / terms which are used in religious texts and Church ceremonies in order to absorb their meaning.
8. The conferees urge Al-Liqa Center to translate and print the book on “The Arabic Icons” because of its importance.
9. Conferees kindly request Al-Liqa’ Center to organize a conference to foreign ambassadors and to cultural attaché of each embassy in order to let them become familiar with the Arab Christian heritage.
10. Conferees kindly request from our fellow countrymen in Nazareth to maintain their unity, shared living and national identity.
11. Conferees kindly request the center to make proper arrangements for the participants in future conferences to visit and become familiar with the Christian and Muslim holy places and monasteries in the Bethlehem Governorate.
12. Conferees kindly request Al-Liqa Center to organize an international conference which will focus on Arab Christian heritage and to which specialists from Arab and Western countries will be invited.
Bethlehem, 12 January 2014