Bethlehem, Palestine—In the second session of Day Two of the Al-Liqa’ 29th Annual International Conference, religious leaders discussed the reality of the Church and Christians in the Middle East.
The two-day conference of the Al-Liqa’ Center for Religious, Heritage and Cultural Studies in the Holy Land, which was co-sponsored by UPF, was titled “The Reality of the Church and Christians in the Middle East.” It was held in the Convention Palace in Bethlehem.
Approximately 60 people participated in person, and in addition there were about 25 views online.
On the second day of the conference—November 26, 2022—Session Two was introduced by Dr. Raed Abdel Massih, an assistant professor at Bethlehem University’s Department of Humanities.
Bishop Youssef Matta, archbishop of Acre, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholics – Haifa, spoke on “The Mission of the Church in Galilee—A Future Vision.”
He identified the many rising challenges that the Church faces: polarization, division, fatigue, misguided goals and visions. Bishop Matta summarized these as a major existential challenge for everyone, with no limit to age, gender, or life of faith. The mission of the Church, he said, should be providing the education and even the curriculum to rid the world of this existential confusion.
Another important mission of the Church, he said, is bringing unity between the churches and between East and West. The necessity for unity is like needing both lungs in order to breathe well, he said: “There is much to learn from each other.”
Bishop Munib Younan, the Palestinian emeritus bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land – Jerusalem, spoke on “The Church’s Mission in Palestine—A Future Vision.”
He began his talk by commending Bishop Youssef Matta for his brief yet effective explanation, before expressing a similar vision for the churches in Palestine.
Citing statistics that illustrate the deterioration of Church participation, Bishop Younan explained the importance of witnessing as a method to provide education and awareness of the history of the Church, the Bible. He also stressed the importance of spiritual practice, such as prayer, as it allows everyone the opportunity to make an informed decision about their life of faith.
With reference to Scripture, Bishop Younan said that the purpose of Christianity is to preach, to share and to witness. He also advocated gender justice within the Church; more women need to take part in decision-making, he said.