Wed, Oct 13, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Arab Christians menaced by Islam: Catholic official

REUTERS, VATICAN CITY

The rise of political Islam in the Middle East poses a threat to Christians in the Arab world and must be faced down together, a senior Roman Catholic official told a synod of Catholic bishops on Monday.

At the two-week meeting to debate how to protect minority communities in the region and encourage harmony with Muslims, the Catholic Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria, Antonios Naguib, also said that attacks against Christians were on the rise due to growing fundamentalism in the region.

“Since 1970, we have witnessed the rise of political Islam in the region, consisting of many different religious currents, which has affected Christians, especially in the Arab world,” Naguib said. “This phenomenon seeks to impose the Islamic way of life on all citizens, at times using violent methods, thus becoming a threat which we must face together.”

Though freedom of worship is guaranteed by the Constitution in most Middle Eastern countries, certain laws and practices have limited its application in some countries, he said.

Saying Christians usually felt the negative aspects of the social and political situations in the region, he called for them to be treated in a just and equal manner rather than being “merely tolerated.”

“Difficulties in the relations between Christians and Muslims generally arise when Muslims do not distinguish between religion and politics,” Naguib said. “On this basis, Christians sense an uneasiness at being considered non-citizens, despite the fact that they have called these countries ‘home’ long before Islam.”

Over the course of the meeting, about 180 bishops, mainly from the Middle East, will discuss problems for the faithful ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and strife in Iraq to radical Islamism and the divisions among the region’s many Christian churches.

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