By Dale Gavlak
Catholic News Service
AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) — For decades, Arab Christians have been fleeing the Holy Land and the rest of the Middle East in droves, mainly because of violence.
Within the past two-and-a-half years, some 450,000 Christians are believed to be among the 2 million people who have fled the civil war in Syria, an ancient land of historic churches, the country where St. Paul encountered Christ on the road to Damascus.
Some 70 high-ranking Arab church leaders, together with their Western counterparts, and Muslim clerics gathered in Amman for a Sept. 3-4 meeting aimed at tackling “the challenges of Arab Christians.”
The Christian and Muslims leaders aimed to find a way to end the sectarian strife threatening their people and countries.
“We must confront extremist trends,” Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, told the gathering. He said it was the duty of religious leaders and their communities to work jointly “to get the new generation to accept ‘the other,'” in order to “isolate these trends.”
Sheik Aref Nayed, a Libyan Muslim theologian, challenged participants to consider what factors help create extremist groups in the first place and whether religious leaders may have also failed to protect their people against government-sanctioned violence.