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MCC staff pictured with HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal (right) at the symposium: (left-right) Daryl Byler, an MCC representative in the Middle East; Nada Zabeneh, MCC Jordan program coordinator; and Suzi Khoury, MCC Jordan administrative assistant. (MCC Photo/Razek Siriani)

MCC staff pictured with HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal (right) at the symposium: (left-right) Daryl Byler, an MCC representative in the Middle East; Nada Zabeneh, MCC Jordan program coordinator; and Suzi Khoury, MCC Jordan administrative assistant. (MCC Photo/Razek Siriani)

Gradual exodus of Christians from Middle East prompts plan of action

MCC Staff
May 9, 2012


AKRON, Pa. –  At a March interfaith symposium on the reality and future of Arab Christians in the Middle East, His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan stressed the importance of cooperation between Muslims and Christians.

The two-day symposium in Amman, Jordan, was organized by the Royal Institute for Inter-faith Studies and in cooperation with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo.

The prince listened and participated as prominent Christian and Muslim religious leaders and academics from the region discussed the issues that contribute to the emigration of Christians.

The presentations focused on the challenges faced by Christians and the fact that Arab Christians in some countries in the region feel that their rights as citizens are being denied. By the end of the event, participants agreed to a plan of action to address the need for equality, human rights and religious freedoms of all citizens of the Middle East.

Daryl Byler, an MCC representative in the region, said the prince expressed to the symposium deep appreciation for MCC’s long service in the Middle East. Byler is from Washington, D.C.

When the prince asked Byler why MCC supports this conference, Byler told him that “MCC partners throughout the Middle East have for years expressed concern about the emigration of Christians, and that MCC believes a strong and vibrant Christian community is part and parcel of a strong and vibrant Middle East.”

Byler said the prince, a Muslim, was an excellent listener and seemed to garner the trust of the participants. “At one point, one of the Christian leaders told Prince Hassan, ‘We have placed our problems in your hands; we hope you will do something with the stories we have shared.’ With his stature throughout the region, Prince Hassan is well-positioned to help address some of the recommendations.”

Byler said it would be tragic for Christians to lose their historic connection to the Holy Land.

“The Middle East is only one part of the world where Christians are the minority faith – and thus potentially vulnerable and marginalized. As the birthplace of the three ‘Abrahamic’ faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – the Middle East can potentially be the model for how faith can be a bridge for peaceful coexistence rather than a weapon for destroying those who are different.”

Mennonite Central Committee: Relief, development and peace in the name of Christ