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Christian denominations converge in Amman for World Council of Churches meeting

Event discusses challenges to religious groups in region, world

By Rula Samain - Nov 18,2017 - Last updated at Nov 18,2017

The World Council of Churches held a meeting in Amman on Friday (Petra photo)

AMMAN — Christian communities of the Middle East and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, the oldest religious institution, have been facing serious challenges in recent years, said Patriarch Theophilos III at the World Council of Churches (WCC) meeting on Friday.

According to its website, the WCC brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships of 348 members from more than 110 countries and territories around the world, representing over 500 million Christians, including most of the world's Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches. 

During the opening address, Theophilos III outlined the recent threats undermining the Christian presence.

“Over the last several months, we have seen a new level of threats to the stability of our multi-ethnic, mutli-cultural, mutli-religious community, with a number of attacks on religious groups, especially the Christian communities,” he said, mentioning the increase of so-called "price tag hate crime” directed against holy places and cemeteries. 

The patriarch also cited the Jaffa Gate case, the issue of the properties owned by the Patriarchate which, for many years, have been subject to attempts by the “radical settler group who tried to take over the Christian Quarter of the city thus diminishing the Christian presence in Jerusalem”.

He voiced hope that the WWC would "continue its mission to secure the position of the Christian community’s freedom and existence against the presented threats”.

WCC general secretary, Rev Olav Fykse Tveit said that the council, which usually meets in Geneva, accepted the Patriarch's invitation to gather in the capital, stressing that the committee's involvement in the region aims to pave the way towards peace between Palestine and Israel, and discuss the challenges faced by the church. 

Among the 26 WCC executive members attending the event were Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, from the Armenian Orthodox Church in the US, who told The Jordan Times that he was impressed by the stability of Jordan in a troubled region.

“I believe that is due to the wisdom of His Majesty King Abdullah who plays an important role in the region nationally and internationally," he said, adding that he was "also impressed by the level of wellbeing and safety that Christians enjoy in their land [Jordan]”.

Both Bishop Samuel Azariah, Former Presiding Bishop of Church of Pakistan, and Bishop John White, President of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, agreed that people should strive to work towards unity and coalition. They noted the local Orthodox Church is strong and deeply rooted in history and will continue to carry the message of peace in a troubled region.

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