Al-Liqa’ Center for Religious and Heritage Studies in the Holy Land
Theology and the Church in the Holy Land Conference on
Palestinian Contextual Theology Conference (PCT)
“Is Christianity about to Vanish in the Arab East?”
12 – 14 December 2014
A very crowded lecture hall with hundredss of Palestinians, men and women, young and old, Christians and Muslims, church leaders, academicians, community leaders, from Galilee, the Triangle, the Bethlehem Governorate and Jerusalem attended the proceedings of the conference, 12-14 December 2014.
Dr. Geries S. Khoury inaugurated the proceedings in the first day, Friday 12 December with introductory remarks concerning Christian presence in Palestine and the Arab East and Al-Liqa’s mission of stressing national unity. He focused as well on Al-Liqa’s publishing activities and its various programs.
The proceedings of the conference began with a panel moderated by Mr. Ziad Shlewit from Galilee concerning “Normal emigration in the 19th Century”. Panelist Dr. Adnan Musallam from Bethlehem focused on Immigration to the Americas while Dr. Shukri ‘Arraf from Galilee focused on Immigration to Palestine.
The second day of the conference the proceedings began with prayer and meditation by Bishop Boutros Mu’allem of Galilee and was followed by a panel on “The Emigration of Christians from Lebanon and Palestine in the last two decades” which was moderated by Mr. Yousef Matar from Galilee. Panelist Rev. Dr. Khalil Maroun who spoke on behalf of Maronite Bishop Musa Al-Haj of Lebanon stressed developments in Lebanon, while Dr. Bernard Sabella of Jerusalem focused on Palestine.
Following a coffee break a panel focusing on emigration from Iraq, Syria and Egypt was moderated by Mrs. Sawsan Bitar of Jerusalem. Panelist Bishop Sewirios Malki Murad of the Syrian Orthodox Church spoke on the present situation in Syria and Iraq while the Franciscan Father ‘Abd al-Masih Fahim discussed the present situation of the Christian Copts of Egypt.
Following lunch, Al-Liqa’ organized an excursion for the conferees revolving around visits to monasteries in the Bethlehem Governorate and which lasted for three hours including the visits to the monastery of St. Theodosius, the Shepherd Field, St. Mary’s Sanctuary (Ortas: Hotus Conclusus). Teacher and tour guide Gloria Nasser of Bethlehem led the group. 145 participate in this field trip, and prayers and meditation were performed in each location.
The last panel of the second day of the conference which was moderated by Ms. Noura Kirt of Jerusalem focused on “The impact of the prevailing culture in our societies on the shared living” Panelist Dr. ‘Atallah Qupti of Haifa university spoke about the present situation in Galilee, while panelist Prof. Dr. Qustandi Shomali of Beit Sahur focused on theoretical aspect of the theme.
Dinner followed this panel.
In the third day of the conference proceedings began with prayers and meditation by Bishop Boutros Mu’allem, and the Shafa ‘Amr quire chanted some hyms.
The first panel of the day revolved around the theme “Christians and Muslims together in facing the Takfiri thoughts” and was moderated by Mrs. Noura Karmi of Jerusalem. Panelist Prof. Dr. Mustafa Abu Swai of Jerusalem presented an Islamic view of the subject while panelist Rev. Dr. Jamal Khader of the Latin Seminary in Beit Jala presented a Christian perspective. Panelist Dr. Mahdi Abd El-Hadi of Jerusalem presented a nationalist view.
Following a coffee break, the final panel was held revolving around the theme “The Christian Arabs in affliction: What to do?”. This session was moderated by Attorney Badira Khourieh of Galilee. Panelist H.B. Patriarch Michael Sabbah emphasized on what kind of faith for the present stage? While panelist Rev. Dr. Mitri Rahib of the Lutheran Church in Bethlehem discussed the idea that despite everything we have to show our committed presence. Panelist Rev. Dr. Rafiq Khoury of Jerusalem discussed the question, is there any significance for the affliction of the Christians and their peoples in the Arab East?
It should be noted that each panel was followed with detailed question and an answer session and discussion by conferees and panelists.
At the conclusion of the conference, Dr. Geries S. Khoury summarized the proceedings and thanked all participants for their participation and thanked also the Patriarchs and bishops who attended the conference and among them was patriarch Fu’ad Twal, Patriarch M. Sabbah, Bishop Butrus Mu’llem, bishop Elias Chaccour and bishop Sewirius Malki Murad. Dr. Khoury was followed by Mr. Ziad Shlewit of Galilee who read the recommendations of the final communiqué of the conference.
It reads as follows:
1. Conferees ask their Christian brothers to forge a tight link with their land and country and never to forsake it for immigration, but to live in dignity and pride and to develop one’s country for the better.
2. Conferees ask countrymen and women to deepen the understanding of the “other” and for the education for “shared living” based on mutual respect and true brotherhood in order to build a viable Arab society which is united in the face of Takfir (accusing the other of unbelief) fear, killing and division.
3. Conferees ask ruling authorities to preserve the rights of religious, nationalist, and ethnic minorities and guaranteeing descend life for them on the base of nationality and pluralism, and the limitless free practice of their religion, social customs, their culture and their language and civilization.
4. Conferees ask the need to reinforce common religious education and to change school curricula in different areas revolving around the role of Christian Arabs in Arab history and civilization which is clearly seen. There is a need as well to emphasize common faith, the acceptance of the other and the knowledge of his/her faith and dogma in a constructive manner.
5. Conferees condemn the conference that is being held in Nazareth ‘Ilit (upper Nazareth) with the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for the sake of small groups of Christians who are calling for conscription in the Israeli armed forces. This small group calls for the uprooting of Christian Arabs from their nationalism. Conferees greet the majority of Christian Arabs who are firm in their Arabism stand. They reject all attempts that are trying to uproot Christian from their people and their nationalism and to tear up their unity, their nationalism and their society.
6. Conferees condemn Israeli military occupation for the expropriation of the land, aggression against holy places, assassination of those who struggle from among Palestinians like Minister Ziad Abu ‘Ayn, and they call for the condemnation of Israeli occupation practices as well as the realization of the just demands of the Palestinian people.
7. Conferees affirm our national unity which is based on our common Muslim and Christian belief in the One God and the one country. There is a need for all of us to maintain our unity in the face of internal and external threats which we cannot overcome unless we are united.
Bethlehem, 14 December 2014