Middle East Council of Churches

Unofficial news from the Middle Eastern Christian Ecumenical organization.

Maintained by Tom Scudder

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Saturday, September 11, 2004

Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria Dies in Helicopter Crash

His Holiness Patriarch Petros VII, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa and one of the MECC's four Presidents, died today in a helicopter crash.

posted by Tom at 9:38 PM

Friday, June 25, 2004
Some comments on possible flows of Iraqi refugees, from Edmond Adam, who coordinates MECC relief work in Baghdad but is for the moment in Beirut, paraphrased:
  • You could call it a flood of people, mostly well-off people who have some money and can find their own accommodations, coming in to Jordan and Syria to stay for a few months and evaluate the situation in Iraq after that time.
  • Jordan is implementing a strict policy towards refugees, turning most of the people who show up at the border back. On the other hand, Syria has an open border policy. There are not a lot of people going to Iran.
  • The Jordanian-Iraqi border will be closed on June 30. Starting July 1, there is supposed to be a visa system for coming into Iraq, but nobody yet knows which nationalities will need visas or how this will be enforced.
  • He doesn't think there will be a mass refugee outflow from Iraq of the sort that will require camps or other emergency-response measures. In case of internal displacement within Iraq, there are no international NGOs now operating there, and there are no local Iraqi organizations with the capacity to deal with mass flows, and given the problems with moving goods around (particularly the continued lawlessness & banditry along the roads) there's no real prospect of building that kind of capacity.

This post was inspired by some comments from Juan Cole on the Informed Comment weblog.
posted by Tom at 12:24 PM

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
On the official site, a story about the new refugee social services center opened in Beirut & the world refugee day celebration.

Refugees sell their handicrafts at the opening of the new center
posted by Tom at 5:01 PM

Friday, June 18, 2004
The MECC's Service to Refugees, Displaced and Migrants, in cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, is opening a Community Center for refugees in Ain El Remmaneh, Beirut. The center will provide a space for the community of refugees to support each other, as well as a venue for educational and social programs. The opening coincides with the commemoration of World Refugee Day.
posted by Tom at 1:34 PM

Further info from the Reformed Church in America General Synod:

Presentation to the 2004 General Synod
by Mitri Raheb

"We might have different opinions when it comes to Palestine, but a moment of truth has come," said Mitri Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, in his address to the 2004 General Synod. "Today is a historic moment. Many people worldwide are comparing the situation in Palestine with the situation in South Africa under apartheid, but so far no mainline church body has attempted to speak to this issue."

Raheb told delegates that the Belhar Confession's emphasis on unity, reconciliation, and justice is highly relevant to the conflict in Palestine/Israel.

Raheb cautioned that there are also significant differences between the situations in South Africa and Palestine. Though in South Africa the division was between two Christian groups, the division in the Holy Land is between two peoples.

"The Belhar Confession sees unity grounded in the church and Christ," he said. "Is there, nevertheless, a possible common ground?"

More of Raheb's work can be seen at the International Center of Bethlehem web site. His full presentation is available from RCA as a PDF and an RTF file (readable on most word processing programs, eg MS Word.
posted by Tom at 1:25 PM

Thursday, June 17, 2004
Several things noted:

  • Reformed Church in America rejects Christian Zionism, compares situation in Israel and Palestine to Apartheid South Africa:

    Countering the interpretation that places the modern state of Israel at the center of God's redemptive purposes, the synod strongly declared the ideology of Christian Zionism and the extreme form of dispensationalism that undergirds it to be a distortion of the biblical message, and noted the impediment it represents to achieving a just peace in Israel/Palestine.

    This action was based on the paper "Christian Zionism: A Historical Analysis and Critique" (available online as a PDF; 203k [AND ALSO HERE AS HTML - EDITOR]), which was recommended by synod to be studied in RCA congregations. The synod's declaration against Christian Zionism followed presentations at the annual ecumenical breakfast from Christo Lombard and Mitri Raheb, who discussed the Belhar Confession and how its origins and uses in southern Africa might be applied to the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

    The Belhar Confession continues to be studied as a possible addition to the RCA's historic creeds and confessions.

  • We heartily encourage our American friends to endorse and support this ad that faithfulamerica.org (a group supported by the National Council of Churches of Christ, USA, among others) wants to play on Arabic-language TV:

    Ad Transcript - "A Salaam A’alaykum ["Peace be with you" in Arabic]. As Americans of faith, we express our deep sorrow at abuses committed in Iraqi prisons. We stand in solidarity with all those in Iraq and everywhere who demand justice and human dignity. We condemn the sinful and systemic abuses committed in our name, and pledge to work to right these wrongs."
    "This message was endorsed and paid for by thousands of Americans. www.faithfulamerica.org" [Appears on screen at end of ad].

    Speakers - Rev. Dr. Don Shriver, Imam Feisal Abdur Rauf, Sister Betty Obal and Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

  • And, from the Official Site, two releases:
    "The time has come for a just, complete, and lasting peace" (May 26)

    The time has come for peace to prevail in place of the continuing bloodshed in Palestine and Iraq. The Middle East Council of Churches, speaking with the voice of its member churches, calls for an immediate end to the chain of aggressions against innocent victims in both countries. These injustices devastate both human beings and their land, and prevent the establishment of stability, just peace or true development.

    Open Letter to the National Council of Churches, USA (June 17):

    We in the Middle East have long appreciated the role the NCCCUSA and its member churches have played in reaching out to us in the region and in advocating for just policies by your own country. This has been especially apparent during the many phases of the crises in Palestine and Iraq.

posted by Tom at 11:44 AM

Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Official site:

Relief Goods Delivered to Earthquake Victims, Jan 12-18

Report from MECC liaison in Iran

Thanks to its international partners, MECC has been able to distribute relief aid to the earthquake-stricken inhabitants of Bam, Iran. The following is the report of the delivery of a relief shipment from Church World Service (CWS), an ecumenical expression of the churches in America. MECC's liaison in Iran is Mr. Melik Khodaverdian. Mr. Dvin Khodaverdian has been assisting him with work on earthquake relief.


posted by Tom at 3:46 PM

Tuesday, January 13, 2004
The following two posts from the Healing Iraq blog are crucial reading, about the death of Zaydun Ma'mun Fadhil Hassun Al-Samarrai, apparently at the hands of American soldiers:

posted by Tom at 1:22 PM