Church leaders travel to Middle East in show of support: Trip intended as solidarity for ‘double minority’ Christians

In the midst of grim Middle East conflict, the Christian population is an overlooked but significant minority.

To highlight that fact, a group of Canadian church leaders, including Anglican Primate Archbishop Michael Peers, will travel to the Middle East next month to show solidarity with the area’s largely-forgotten Christian population.

About eight per cent of all Palestinians are Christian. Being a Christian Palestinian in the Middle East – particularly in the occupied territory – is to be a “double minority” observed Archbishop Peers.

Because the vast majority of Palestinians are Muslim, the minority Christians are “simply overlooked by the rest of the world,” said the Primate. “The church leaders (in the Middle East) find that frustrating.”

The trip is a response to a November, 2000, written appeal from church leaders in the Middle East to “all Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant churches world-wide, as well as to ‘friends of peace’ in our land, in the region and across the whole world to toil together for the establishment of a comprehensive, just and durable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

The Canadian Council of Churches composed a statement of support for the Middle East churches, and then decided at a January meeting to convey it in person. Three of the 10 church leaders who signed the statement are able to go in May: Archbishop Peers, Dr. Marion Pardy, moderator of the United Church of Canada, and Bishop Telmor Sartison, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. They will be joined by Marjorie Ross of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, who chairs the
Middle East working group of the Inter-Church Action coalition.

The church leaders hope that the week-long trip, from May 6-14, can help influence public opinion in Canada about the Middle East.

Ms. Pardy sees the visit as putting into practice her church’s creed, which begins: “We are not alone, we live in God’s world.”

Calling the trip an expression of the Canadian churches’ concern and solidarity, Ms. Pardy said, “My hope is that some of the sense of isolation that the church leaders in the Middle East are feeling might be lessened by the visible support.”

Both Archbishop Peers and Ms. Pardy expect that their understanding of the Middle East conflict will increase during their visit. Referring to having cleared the time to make the trip, Archbishop Peers said: “My policy, even as a diocesan bishop, has been to say ‘I’ll empty the time, you fill it. If your own agenda is not the heavy one, you tend to learn more.”


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