I am Egyptian
I speak Arabic of course—but I count only in French
I cook Lebanese food—but I think in Italian
I am a Christian—my godmother is Jewish
I recited the Koran well—in my Catholic school
Never mind, I am a Kiwi now—yet I still cross myself the Eastern way
Who am I?
Welcome to the world of Middle Eastern Christians!
Ms Dalia Tinawi began her presentation on Christians of the Middle East with this statement that expresses something of the complexity of life for the 13 million Christians in the Middle East. In a very moving, personal way she led the participants in the annual colloquium of the Wellington Theological Consortium held in Wellington on 23 June, through the maze of interfaith relations in the Middle East.
Father Aprem Pithyou spoke of the sufferings of Middle Eastern Christians from his experience as an Iraqi Christian, and pastor of the Iraqi community in Wellington. Mrs Rosemary Wallis, from her experience of teaching in Lebanon and working with the churches there, commented perceptively on the challenges facing them.
Other key presenters of the day were Dr Peter Lineham on various understandings of ‘end-time theologies’ and how they affect Jewish-Christian relations and Middle East politics; Canon Peter Stuart and Dr Susan Wilson on the religious component in violence.
The challenge here is to draw on the positive strength of our religious convictions, while at the same time confronting the tendencies to violence in the human heart and in some strands of our religious beliefs.
Interfaith perspectives on attitudes to the State of Israel were presented by Dr Dave Moskovitz, (Jewish), Rev Dr Robin Lane (Christian) and Ms Rehanna Ali (Muslim).
Sister Catherine Jones explored how God images affect the way we relate to one another across religious affiliation; her conviction is that there cannot be a comprehensive Christian understanding of the Middle East, without a courageous and committed engagement with Jewish and Muslim understandings of this troubled region.
For further information, select bibliography, and texts of some papers, please contact Rev Peter Stuart, at the Wellington Theological Consortium, phone (04) 562 6067.