(What has future in store for Eastern Christians?) is the title of an international conference organised by the Institut européen en sciences des religions and the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes-Sorbonne on 16-17 November 2007 in Paris. The interesting initiative was made possible by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in partnership with the Alliance française and the Institut du Monde Arabe.
The never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the ongoing crisis in Iraq and the rising post-2006 tensions in Lebanon define the current situation in the Middle East. Under such circumstances, should draw attention not to the fate of the region's Christian minorities not only by experts but also of the media and the general public.
Paradoxically, Eastern Christians are too Western in the eyes of Easterners and too Eastern in the eyes of Westerners. What must instead be clearly stressed is that Arab Christian communities, be they Catholic or Orthodox, play an irreplaceable role as a link mediating between the West and the East. In point of fact, we ought to recognise that not only are they a stabilising factor, preventing the Arab Muslim world from turning inward, but they are also an element of modernisation.
Hence, we must not allow this region, in particular the Holy Land, to turn into some kind of spiritual Disneyland with Christians as some exotic characters serving the local religious tourist sector. We must instead find an alternative to either interference or indifference.
In the first place, Christians who live and work in the Middle East ought to be the recipients of real solidarity, one that allows them to lead a life of dignity whilst contributing to their countries, enjoying full citizenship. Secondly, better and more in-depth information is needed to avoid oversimplifications that lead some to place the "good guys" in the West and the "bad guys" in the East.
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