Middle East archbishop talks about reconciliation
Archbishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem and the Middle East has briefed his fellow Anglican Primates on his province’s reconciliation ministry.
The Archbishop, whose own diocese takes in the countries of Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Syria and Lebanon; and whose province includes Iran, Cyprus and the Gulf, and Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, has considerable experience of reconciliation work.
He was speaking at the recent Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury Cathedral. The leaders of 33 Anglican provinces met at the beginning of October, completing their business on 6th October (see page 8).
“This morning I had the opportunity to update the Primates on the situation we have in Jerusalem – a city which embraces three religions,” Archbishop Suheil told the Anglican Communion News Service, “and I said something about how we build trust and hope amongst the communities who live there.”
The role of religion and faith in Irish society, north and south, has clearly changed dramatically, influenced by the process of secularisation and evidenced by a steady decline in Church attendance and in vocations to ministry. More and more people are now living their lives without any reference to God or to religious belief.
It is in this environment that all of us as members of Christian traditions are being called to “go out of ourselves” to engage courageously in mission. Our wounded world needs so much to be healed and enlightened by the Gospel, and we are all called to be prophetic in shining the light and truth of the Gospel into some of the trickiest and most sensitive issues of our time.
All around us we see people discarded by society, or starved of purpose, robbed of hope, or simply confused by the superficiality of what is on offer to them. Jesus in our hearts is calling on all of us Christians: “Give them something to eat!”
The future of humanity rests on those who are capable of handing on to the coming generations reasons for living and hoping. Some would react to us: “Christians, keep your faith to yourself, save it for the privacy of your home and your place of worship; stay out of the public square.” But our faith in God’s love for us and our personal relationship with Jesus compel us to participate in the public sphere.
I am convinced that in the midst of an increasingly secular world, we in the various Christian traditions are called to combine our efforts out of our “certain hope” for the world. We therefore present to public discourse our consistent Christian conviction about the sacredness of all human life and the dignity of the person, about the centrality of the family, about solidarity and the need for a fair distribution of goods in the world, about a society that is marked by peace, justice and care for all, especially the most vulnerable.
Of course we must find new ways of presenting our sincerely held perspectives alongside those of other faiths and none, in conversations about significant issues and values. Such engagement by people of faith is made all the stronger if we do it together and, where possible, when we have a unified voice on the key ethical issues of our time.
I recognise, sadly, that many people looking in at us from outside, and particularly on this island, see a history of division and sectarianism, of intolerance, mutual recriminations and open hostility within the Christian family – this is a source of scandal and something which has dimmed the light of the Gospel.
We people of faith, in the various Christian traditions on the island of Ireland, share the responsibility of leading the way in transforming relationships and in healing the legacy and pain of our troubled past.
Who spoke the words written above?
These are all the words, with a few minor edits, of the Most Revd Eamon Martin, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. He included them in his homily at Choral Evensong in St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral, Armagh, on Sunday 8th October, to mark the 500th anniversary of Luther’s theses1.
Why are they important?
Yes, they were spoken at an important ecumenical moment as a Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh spoke at an event to mark the Reformation. But let me venture to suggest their significance is much more important than that. They speak for something profound that is beginning to happen across the Christian Church on this island, including the Church of Ireland – we are beginning to recover the missionary impulse. The signs are there.
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