Your Royal Highness, Your Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellences, Distinguished Guests,
I sincerely thank His Highness Crown Prince Ghazi for having the courage to organize this high level conference and to do it in such a short time. The outcome of this Assembly is proof of how wisely His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Hussein acted to entrust this task to Your Highness and to what extent the Christian leaders of the region are sensitive to this topic.
I have been Apostolic Nuncio in Jordan and in Iraq for about 3 years. During this period, I realized how much the Christians expect not only from the religious authorities but also, and perhaps more so, from the political authorities so that these institutions make specific efforts to prevent that Christians are forced, against their will, to leave their homes.
The roar of the guns in neighbouring Syria certainly does not make them feel more relaxed and optimistic about the future. With a heavy heart, with tears in their eyes, with feet that do not want to leave, but with their mind already elsewhere, many turn their backs to this land where they were born and lived for 2,000 years.
“Enough! Enough! Enough!” shouted a three year old child, before being gunned down, to the terrorists in the Church of Sayddnat al-Najat in Baghdad during the terrible attack on 31 October 2010 that caused more than 50 casualties, including two priests who were officiating the Sunday service to the faithful.
“Enough blood! Enough violence! Enough hatred! Enough meddling of the foreign countries which under the pretext of help or of exporting democracy try to advance their interests which are not always noble!” shout today also the Christians in the Middle East. Too many weapons are entering in this region and we do not know in whose hands they are ending. Enough weapons!
The Christians of these countries, together with their Muslim brothers, are urgently asking for peace and security.
Let me quote from a touching letter written by four Trappist nuns in Syria on August 30, last. It is not referred to the Christians only, but it certainly expresses their sentiments: “The problem is that it has become too easy to smuggle lies as noble sentiments, the most unscrupulous interests as a quest for justice, the need of leadership and power as "a moral responsibility to not close your eyes" ... And in spite of all our globalizations and sources of information, it seems that nothing is verifiable, that a minimum of objective truth does not exist ... That is, someone does not want it to exist. Instead there is a truth indeed, and honest men could find it, really looking for it together, if it wouldn’t be prevented them from those who have other interests”.
So being said, regarding now, more particularly, the Christian situation, we can admit that in the hearts of each one of them there is certainly the desire of sharing, with everybody, the treasure they encountered, the way to salvation shown to them by Jesus, but they do not seek to impose their faith on others and they ask for reciprocity, in every field: as believers, as human beings, as citizens.
As believers, the Christians share with their Islamic brothers that “there is no compulsion in religion”; as human beings, they believe they have the same dignity as children of Adam; as citizens, they are asking for the elimination of all inequalities:
• in the school
• in the workplace
• in the judicial system and law enforcement, for both men and women.
The contribution that the Arab Christians have given, both in the political scene and at the humanitarian level, to the development of these Countries, it is well known. They wish to continue to do so, also today, but many times they feel powerless and, in some cases, they perceived to be considered as guests. The Jordanian Constitution, just an example among others, thank God is an example to imitate, but more can be done to implement it, particularly in the field of education in order to create a tolerant mindset since often, in spite of the existing laws, the practice deviates from the codified ideal. Christians expect from their governments the respect of the rule of law and the complete separation of powers. Otherwise, complete justice will never be done, particularly towards the weakest of the society.
Of course, when one feels being a minority asks for tolerance and respect, while if belongs to a majority, he/she is likely to forget it. But Christians are not rising their voice as a minority group which asks not be trampled on or forgotten, they are asking this as Jordanians, as Iraqis, as Egyptians, as Syrians, as Palestinians, as Lebanese, as Arabs who demand their blood brothers, though not of faith, not to look at their creed but at their humanity.
50 years and a few days ago Martin Luther King uttered a speech that became history: I have a dream. We recently commemorated this event and yet today, after so many years, we are still moved when listening to those words. That dream continues to encourage the younger generations to see each other as brothers and sisters, on the way towards the full realization of that equality which all people enjoy before God. Without that dream, millions of Americans today wouldn’t have the opportunities they have, many would still be excluded and discriminated against, and someone, perhaps, would not even become President!
The Arab Christians today, in 2013, share the same dream and they wish to receive support to make the dream come real. They want to shake hands with their Islamic brothers and look into their eyes. They dream about their children telling their grandchildren how fortunate they are to be born in the country of Abraham, living in the mountains of Elijah, to walk the streets traveled by Moses, to stride in the land of Jesus and to deliver it to their descendants better than they found it.
They continue to dream that the swords are transformed into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks, cannons into schools, bombs into houses, in a world where discrimination becomes respect, hatred leaves room for love.
Your Royal Highness, is it only a dream? A mere utopia? We are here to work together towards making that dream a reality. The world of tomorrow will be a world of peace, or the humanity will be doomed to disappear.
Thanks to You and to His Majesty for the contribution that you are bountifully giving. This conference, after all, is already a little dream that has come true.
Msgr. Giorgio Lingua
Apostolic Nuncio to Jordan and Iraq