The COMECE Bishops welcome the Arab Spring as a sign of hope
After decades of diplomatic deadlock and conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, the COMECE Bishops now see in the Arab Spring a clear sign of hope. The popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other Arab countries represent a legitimate claim for freedom and human dignity for millions of people. This is the main message of the Spring Plenary Assembly of COMECE, which took place on 6 to 8 April 2011 in Brussels and was dedicated to “Christian Churches in Maghreb and Mashriq”.
The COMECE Bishops warmly encourage the citizens to continue their commitment towards the establishment of fundamental rights and democracy in their home countries. The Bishops wish to pay special tribute to the younger generation, who in all these countries played a leading role by launching and organising this uprising in a courageous, peaceful and ecumenical way.
Recalling the conclusions of the Synod on the Middle East, the COMECE Bishops believe that Christians in these countries share a common citizenship with their fellow citizens from other religions and that each religion forms an integral part of their societies. The Bishops call on them to contribute on the basis of their faith to democratic change in their countries as fellow-citizens,.
After having had the benefit of hearing from several experts from the Arab world and from the EU institutions, the COMECE Bishops make the following recommendations to the EU:
- More and concrete solidarity among the Member States of the EU is urgently needed to help in facing the inflow of migrants and refugees from North Africa and the Middle East (as provisioned in Directive 2001/55/EC on temporary protection)
- the EU should help in improving the deplorable situation in these countries by developing new tools to efficiently foster modernisation and democratisation in their societies
-in the context of changes in the Arab world, the EU should stress the importance of granting equal rights to all citizens of those countries, irrespective their ethnic or religious origin; including Christians.
For their part, the Bishops discussed the following possible actions:
- to organise regular exchanges with the Bishops’ Conferences of North Africa and the Middle East in order to better assess the expectations of their local population towards the EU
- to encourage reflexion on “Democracy and Religion” together with Christians and Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East
- to promote the social and political education of young people from North Africa and the Middle East
They also addressed a letter to their fellow Bishops in the Middle East and North Africa in which they express their Solidarity and shared communion in prayers.
The insecurity and threats that Christian minorities are more and more facing in the Arab World are clearly intolerable. The COMECE Bishops expressed similar concern about the way religious minorities are sometimes treated in Europe. They therefore call upon all citizens, especially Christians, and the political leaders in Europe to assume their responsibilities for promoting dialogue between cultures and civilisations in Europe as well as in the rest of the world.