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News Brief



 International Ecumenical Relations


May, 2008



During the round table meeting of the Department of Services to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) which is a department affiliated to MECC, and on the occasion of the 60 years of occupation and dispossession of Palestine, the MECC General Secretary expressed in his speech on May 5th, the Council’s support for the Palestinian people in their right of return, the lifting of the Israeli siege imposed on Gaza and its people, the fulfillment of the “road map” in order to achieve a just and lasting peace in the region. The General Secretary paid tribute to the work of the DSPR department in Gaza, the West Bank, the Galilee, Jordan and Lebanon in service of Palestinian refugees.

On the other hand, the World Council of Churches announced the Global Week of Action from June 4-10, 2008.  The Churches in five continents are demonstrating their concern together,' said WCC General Secretary in announcing the week. 'It is encouraging to see so many churches speaking out together for peace. The message for the action week says: It is time for Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace.'

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For WCC week of action click on: action week message



Due to the escalated situation in Lebanon and as emergency contingency plan, the MECC was obliged to change the venue of the formal round table partners’ meeting (scheduled 12 – 13 May 2008), from Lebanon to Jordan. The advisory meeting gathered several partners’ representatives namely: Church of Sweden, FinChurchAid, NCC of Australia, PCUSA, CWS New Zealand, CWS USA, WCC, NCA, and partially ICCO (late arrival). MECC was represented by: the General Secretary, the IER director, the Finance Secretary, the Director of Damascus office, the Director of Amman office and ELD. The agenda of the meeting included the following items: MECC General Secretary’s address to partners, ICNDR issue (consultant report), MECC emergency contingency plan of action in the case of Lebanon, MECC 4-Years plan of action, and briefing on the financial situation. The outcomes of the meeting were all considered as “recommendations”. Participants also agreed on a new formal partners’ meeting (20 – 21 November 2008).

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The Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees has concluded its Central Committee meeting (May 7 - 9) and its Round Table meeting (May 10 -11).

The meeting of the Central Committee reviewed the work in the different Areas (Gaza Strip, West Bank, Nazareth, Jordan Lebanon and Central Office) and commended the continuing efforts of all in spite of great odds and difficulties.

Mr. Saleh Guirguis, the General Secretary of MECC, opened the CC meeting with a message emphasizing on the 60th anniversary of dispossession and assured the commitment of MECC to the Right of Return and to continuing work on the Palestinian refugee issue and in support of DSPR work.


The Central Committee elected the Executive positions and we were privileged to reconfirm Mr. George Hazou as a Chairperson for the next four years and Mrs. Leila Dagher as Vice Chairperson. The Finance Subcommittee selected Mrs. Claudette Habesch as its Chair.

Mr. Hazou gave a message in which he emphasized the voluntary spirit involved in the work of DSPR and he offered appreciation for the confidence given him, and for the development of the field projects and the impacts on the beneficiaries.

Issues that were discussed during the two-days meeting included an assessment of where DSPR is at in terms of implementation of the evaluation recommendations; as well as the Financial Reports for 2007, which were reviewed with the proposed budgets for 2008.


Member delegates from the different partners attended along with the CC members the Round Table meeting as of 10-11/5/2008. Briefing on the social, economic and political situation was presented highlighting the role that Arab and Palestinian Christians could play in the overall unstable environment. The possibility that there may not be a peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israel was highlighted and the repercussions presented. A rich discussion followed in which church relations and partnerships across could contribute to a different Palestinian society and in fact to a different Middle East. The contributions of indigenous Christians while these should not be overestimated should, nevertheless, be placed in context and encouraged by keeping Christians in the region and working to repatriate them where feasible and safe.

Assessments of DSPR Areas were presented and discussed, and suggestion that horizontal joint work across DSPR Areas was essential and should be attempted.

Partners presented each their organizations, strategies and where they see their own organizations going in the Middle East and in respect specifically to issues of peace and justice. Partners emphasized that DSPR presents a key partner to them and accordingly they expect DSPR to provide them with updated news and stories that can be used in their publications and reach out.

The next Round Table would be on October 23 -24 2009 and will take place in the Visitation Home Rosary Sisters in Fuheis - Jordan.

For more information contact Mr. George Hazou at:



After more than six months of Presidential vacuum and tough political disputes between the different political parties and factions in Lebanon, Lebanese politicians reached an agreement on the 21st of May in their four day meeting under the patronage of Doha – Qatar, The election came after the fierce armed clashes which broke in Beirut and other Lebanese cities during the mid of May, Lebanon was at the brink a new civil war. On the 25th of May the Lebanese parliament elected a new President. During the tragic events of armed clashes, MECC has issued three updates information and statements condemning the use of arms and violence to solve political issues, and welcoming any peaceful intervention. The Conference of European Churches (CEC) Presidium meeting in Brussels (May 16), called for prayer and action for peace and reconciliation in Lebanon. Many partner churches and ecumenical organizations in the world send messages of hope for peace and end of violence.

MECC and its member churches welcomed the Doha agreement between the various political parties, which will hopefully bring peace and stability to Lebanon and its people. His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, President of MECC declared that “….because Lebanon is anchored on coexistence, victory of it prevailed in Qatar”.

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For MECC updates:

For CEC statement click on:



The Standing Committee of the Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Middle East met in St Mark Coptic Orthodox Conference Centre – Cairo May 7 – 8. On the 9th, the meeting was presided by His Holiness Pope Shenouda of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and His Holiness Patriarch Zakka Iwas I of the Syrian Orthodox Church. His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Armenian Orthodox Church was not able to travel from Beirut because of the special situation in Lebanon. The Committee presented its working papers to the Heads of Churches. No common declaration was issued until the Heads of Oriental Orthodox meet again. There were many issues and reports on the agenda of the meeting, regarding the relations and dialogues between the Oriental Orthodox churches in the Middle East and the Anglican, Catholic and Lutheran Churches as well as the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches.



The new Director of the Unit on Education & Leadership met with the Unit’s staff in Cairo on May 8 – 9. The meeting was the first for the director to introduce the work of the Unit for the next four years, the visions, and to organize the administrative procedures between the staff and the director. The MECC General Secretary and the Finance Secretary were present at that meeting.

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The MECC/JPHR organized a consultation on “The Role of the Religious Institutions in the support of human Dignity”. It took place in Harissa – Lebanon (5-7 May). The consultation is considered as part of the process of agreement between MECC and the Conference of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon. The General Secretary of the Council Mr Guirguis Saleh addressed the meeting with a welcoming word and briefed the participants on the Council’s challenges and achievements on the protection of human dignity. Present were the members of the core committee of the project who are activists in human rights and represents churches in Lebanon. The consultation discussed how to develop ways to help the religious institutions to play a role in the protection of human dignity which emanates from God nature. As such, the program seeks to equip churches in the Arab region with data helping them to advocate for issues in the region. This will be done in cooperation with other partners’ institutions. The program sets a work pattern to monitor the implementation of justice and human rights in the region. It also sets a mechanism to well-develop a forum in the Middle East for more conventional discussions on human rights and justice, as well as for training. 

The final purpose of this initiative is to issue reports reflecting on the human rights situation in each country and to focus on burning issues that affect the situation of justice and peace.   These reports will be circulated to the different partners and churches. An analysis will be followed and different type of actions will be undertaken starting from the support and advocacy with the help of our partners, and ending in approaching local governments and organizations.

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In Amman – Jordan a two days workshop (May 19 – 20) was organized by the United Nations on Global Humanitarian Platform (GHP). Some sixty representatives of international, regional and local NGOs as well as UN coordinating staff were present. The MECC was represented by its International Ecumenical Relations Director. The GHP was created in July 2006 and brings together UN and non-UN humanitarian organizations on an equal footing. The GHP strives to enhance the effectiveness of humanitarian action, acknowledges diversity as an asset of the humanitarian community, recognizes the interdependence among humanitarian organizations, and commits to build and nurture an effective partnership. The organizations participating in the GHP agreed on the following principles to base their partnership: equality, transparency, result-oriented approach, responsibility and complementarity. The overall agenda of the meting discussed ways of strengthening partnerships to improve humanitarian response. Two cases were presented as an example namely: Gaza and Basra.

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The delegation, which was headed by Archbishop Gukkea Paarma, visited the MECC Amman office on May 15th, and met with the director of the office. The delegation was briefed about the activities of Amman office and the activities related to the services for Iraqis in Jordan. The delegation met with his Royal Highness Prince Ghazi, and he accompanied the delegation to the Baptism site at the Jordan River where a piece of land was given as a gift from His Majesty King Abdulla II to the Lutheran to build a Church on.

In Ramallah, the delegation met with the Head of the Presidential Office of the Palestinian Authority. The delegation was acknowledged about the efforts of peace, and the relations between Christians and Muslims. The Palestinian Office Head called on churches in the world to raise the motto of: “it is time for the birth of the Palestinian State”, and called for the immediate lifting of the siege against Gaza 

The delegation consists of: Rev. Dr. Risto Cantell /Executive Director, Tarja Kantola/ International Secretary, Bishop Muneeb Yunan of the Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, Rev. Samer Azar from Jordan.

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A fact -finding delegation from the Middle East Fellowship in the USA, led by Mr. Robin Wainright, director of the Caltin Foundation in Florida visited Jordan and Syria, May 17-26, 2008. The mission aimed at studying the Iraqi refugees’ situation in the two countries that have hosted a very large numbers of those refugees.


The visit was organized in cooperation with the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) both in Syria and Jordan.  Rev. Dr. Nuhad Tohme, MECC Associate General Secretary, accompanied the delegation in their visits.


In Jordan, the delegation met with Iraqi refugees and learnt about their situation.  They also met with representatives of local churches, Islamic and humanitarian organizations to discuss ways and means of improving refugees' living conditions.


His Excellency Akel Biltaji, The advisor and consultant of His Majesty King Abdullah II received the delegation. His Excellency gave a comprehensive lecture at the Century Hotel about the History of Jordan and the general situation of the region, and a detailed awareness of the peace process in the region and the role of Jordan in the Peace process, as a moderate and positive role lead By His Majesty King Abdullah II.


A worship service offered at the Presbyterian Church in Amman was attended by Iraqi refugees.


In Syria, the delegation met with Christian and Muslim Iraqi refugees and listened to their stories and the challenges they are facing.


The delegation met with His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim, Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox of Antioch and with Ms. Colette Khoury, Consultant to the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, Dr. Bachar Al Assad. They also attended a graduation ceremony at the Holy Cross Church in Damascus during which 35 young Iraqi men and women received diplomas for completing their vocational training in Management Skills. The vocational training program was implemented jointly by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Middle East Council of Churches.


At the end of the mission, the delegation members committed themselves to advocate for the cause of the Iraqi refugees in the USA, hoping to be heard.

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Ecumenical officers of the World Council of Churches member churches convened a meeting in Geneva may 20 – 22. Some forty representatives from churches in Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Latin America participated in the meeting. The issues on the agenda were: the main ecumenical facets of each church, the reports of WCC project managers, ecumenical relations and the mission of the church in globalized societies, the imperative or the unity of the church, the importance of ecumenical relations, the activity of the youth department, the situation in the Middle East and the need to overcome violence, and issues related to climate changes.

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MECC General Secretary met with the two Presidents of the Council in Lebanon on May 23rd, namely: His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, and His Grace Archbishop Boulos Matar. The agenda of the meeting included a review of the Council’s activities since its last Executive meeting, and a briefing on the current status of the Council and its future activities, issues and projects related to the Council’s administrative structure, and its financial situation. The Presidents proposed that the formal partners meeting be held in July 2008 instead of November. The General Secretary informed partners about this proposal for feedback.

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A magazine related to the Evagelisches Missionwerk in Sudewestdeutschland in Germany published in its issue of (1/2008 Schneller) an article on MECC and its ecumenical role in the Middle East. The article, which was written by Mr Razek Siriani, MECC director of International Ecumenical Relations was published in German language and reflects the role of MECC in enhancing the ecumenical movement in the Middle East.

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A conference call was organized on May 27th at 15:00h Beirut time, between MECC and partners who are involved in supporting ICNDR (Inter-Church Network on Development & Relief) program in Lebanon. MECC was represented by its General Secretary, President of the Council, two Executive members, ICNDR Director, Finance Secretary, International Ecumenical Relations Director. From the partners were: ACT Co, NCA (Norway), CWS (USA), UCC (USA), NCCA (Australia), Christian Aid, and FinChurchAid. Participants in the conference discussed ways of endorsing the process leading to the strengthening of ICNDR, support its strategic plan, comments on the consultancy report, ICNDR basic structure, and commitment of partners to ICNDR activities.



The Frontier Internship in Mission held the meeting of its International Coordinating Committee May 21 - 25 in Geneva, Switzerland.  MECC has been a faithful partner of FIM throughout the years, and a number of meaningful internships have been carried out in cooperation with MECC and other Christian organizations in the region. Mr. Elias El-Halabi, the Associate General Secretary represented the Council at the meeting.  At this FIM-ICC meeting received the outcome of a comprehensive external evaluation.  The evaluation provided the insights needed to decide on the future of Frontier, in light of a new assessment of the present world situation, the needs of church and society, and the potential and actual contributions of the program. The ICC meeting decided on an interim plan to rescue the FIM from its financial crises over the course of the next two years.  A contingency plan was also improvised in case the funding was not adequate. During that meeting the MECC reaffirmed to the newly elected officers and international coordinator its commitment to support the FIM in its endeavor.

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 The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) is a fellowship of churches in the Middle East, which foster the ecumenical movement in the region. It brings together almost all the region’s Christians in a body that focuses on strengthening the relations between churches, between Christians and non-Christians in the region, and between members of the body of Christ within and outside the region. In bringing these different churches together, MECC seeks to serve the needs of the broader society, by engaging in diakonical work, advocacy, education and training on behalf of the whole church, rather than one part of it. The MECC is founded in 1974 through its first General Assembly. The Council’s head quarter is in Beirut, Lebanon. However, regional offices in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Jerusalem exist.


 Contact:  MECC International Ecumenical Relations

Tel: +961 1 353938


For Contribution:

Middle East Council of Churches
HSBC Bank – Middle East
Hamra Branch – Ras Beirut
Beirut – Lebanon
Account No: 003-074473-100
Bank Swift Code No: BBMELBBX