“Third European Ecumenical Assembly’’
Sibiu - Romania
An address by
Guirgis Ibrahim Saleh, MECC General Secretary
One day, all human beings will learn about the only way that brings
true and lasting peace and prosperity.
Your Beatitude, Eminence, Graces, Dear Friends,
I would like to thank the
opportunity to be with you today, and trust to attain all together the
aim of this panel.
Every body is eager to have
peace.. What is peace? How do we define a peaceful society? Where do
we stand now in the Middle East?
for peace is not confined to one region. The situation in the Middle
East may be the most sensitive, but the search for security is still the
major concern for many people and nations.
It is our regret that
humankind in general has used violence throughout history, as a solution
to disputes between men. It is also of regret that the peoples’
cultures did much to curb religion towards their needs, and change it to
be the cause of war, or used it from time to time in violence, in order
to defend the religion, or in order to establish their principles. This
mentality has in fact continued to the present day in different forms.
For security in
the Middle East to be realized we must commit to resolve longstanding
conflicts. The longer these conflicts and insecurities ferment
unaddressed, the greater the sense of injustice and humiliation. We will
naturally require more than just finding a solution to the
Israeli–Palestinian issue. We need to achieve stability in Iraq and
Lebanon, to normalize relations with Iran, and to address pressing
issues of development, governance and modernity throughout the region
are only a few of the substantial challenges that must be dealt with.
If our strategies
are focused on achieving human security, then we will definitely see the
advantage of finding solutions through dialogue and negotiation rather
than through confrontation and the use of force. It is in these same
regions where, over time, we have seen the rise of extremism and the
constant threat of internal strife, interstate wars and the efforts by
states to seek weapons of mass destruction.
serves as constant reminder
that through understanding we can achieve cooperation, which leads us to
coexistence, which in turn leads to greater harmony and peace. It is
precisely this element of dialogue that is urgently needed. Therefore we
have to welcome rather than ignore these invitations for inter-cultural
dialogue. A beneficial dialogue, whether between religions,
civilizations or cultures, is conditional `that the dialogue be based on
common humanitarian principles and mutual respect, and that the goal
should not be to do away with differences between people but preserve
and celebrate those differences as sources of strength and wealth.
have to share resources, combat common environmental and health issues,
and interact with each other on many levels. By settling differences in
a fair manner that balances the interests of all parties, we create the
necessary environment for lasting peace and future cooperation.
What we really need in the
Middle East is to take steps in favor of human rights and religious
freedom, monitor their status and push for their broader applicability,
which is something that might have political and economic consequences.
For instance MECC took a sharp decision to spare a wider space for
advocacy together with its member Churches. In this respect, MECC
started, with the Council of Catholic Patriarchs in the Middle East, a
new phase of monitoring human rights cases all over the region.
In my capacity as MECC
General Secretary, I attend many peace conferences, but unfortunately I
do not see any concrete results.
There seem to be no
international will to halt to it. The Israeli state has taken adroit
advantage of the situation of western disarray and pursued its brutal
step-by-step process of ethnic cleansing. This has only strengthened the
position of hard-line Islamist fanatics and radicals in the region,
putting Christians in an ever more precarious position, and stifling the
voice of Muslim moderates and ordinary people who simply want to get on
with living and making their world a better place for their children.
we must view both
the problems and their solutions. The international community must rise
and come to the defence of the life, freedom and dignity of every
individual or group, whether the aggressor is an occupying force or a
dictator. We will not achieve national or international security unless
every one of us is able to live in freedom and dignity. It is therefore
imperative to put in practice a real force of the international
community to protect against genocide, ethnic cleansing and other gross
violations of human rights.
MECC sees that humanity is
today at a critical stage in its history. The ambiguous values of
globalization, the violent expressions of religious fanaticism, and the
continuation of injustice in different forms have caused fear and
People are today in need of
mutual understanding and cooperation in order to coexist in peace and
fight insecurity and collectively confront many of the images of
corruption and extremism in modern society. Discipline and vision are
needed to bring out the best in what people have to offer.
Yet the main four
categories of insecurity are:
- Poverty, and the
way to break out poverty (a reality that around 45 per cent live on
the edge of survival)
The lack of good
governance in some countries which ranges from corruption to human
- The fair
distribution of resources
- Injustice that
results from the imbalance between the 'haves' and 'have-nots'.
polarization along religious or ethnic lines, or 'clash of
civilizations' and the protection of national borders and old concepts
This is the basis
on which we must 're-engineer' security. While national security is just
as relevant as before, the strategies to achieve it must be much more
global than in the past, and our remedies must be centered on the
welfare of the individual and not simply focused on the security of the
understand and act accordingly, we will not have either national or
But to understand
the urgency of reforming our system for maintaining international peace
and security, we must also look critically at situations where it has
not been able to adequately fulfill its function. I would mention three
aspects in that regard.
Security Council — as well as regional organizations and institutions —
have often been unable to intervene in a timely manner in humanitarian
crises, and in cases of gross violations of human rights. The ongoing
tragedy in Darfur is one painful case in point.
Second, we have
allowed some conflicts to fester for decades, with devastating effects.
The Palestinian people, for example, have been subjected to 40 years of
occupation, leading inevitably to increased polarization and militancy.
These conflicts, like other more recent conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan
and Somalia, could be solved. They persist because the international
community, despite intermittent efforts, has not made the necessary
investments nor mustered the resolve needed to end these conflicts.
Reform Security Mechanisms and
Institutions to Achieve Human Security as "Human security is
too important to be left to governments."
The recent history
of the Middle East teaches us that these conflicts cannot be solved
through military force. Every type of violence has been tried, from
occupation by force and military confrontation, to oppression, terrorism
and targeted assassination — without getting close to peace or security.
Each act of violence in the region only begets more violence and ad
The solution will
not lie in redressing all past injustice. If we are to solve the central
conflict of the Middle East, we must begin by being ready to reconcile
and recognize mutual rights and above all by finding in our hearts the
ability to forgive.
The threat of
other regional states acquiring nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass
destruction will continue to be a grave international concern. The rise
of extremist groups originating in the Middle East — and the ease with
which they recruit in the region — will continue to be high on the list
of international insecurities. Also, the dependency of many countries on
Middle East oil and natural gas will continue to add a dimension of
global economic risk to any conflict. And when events in the region give
rise to perceived religious and cultural divisions between the Muslim
world and the West, the repercussions will continue to be felt
For security in
the Middle East to be realized will naturally require more than just
finding a solution to the Israeli–Palestinian issue. The need to achieve
stability in Iraq and Lebanon, to normalize relations with Iran, and to
address pressing issues of development, governance and modernity
throughout the region are only a few of the substantial challenges that
must be dealt with.
But if the
Palestinian question were to be resolved, a decades old burden of
Arab–Israeli tensions would be lifted that would improve immeasurably
our ability to deal with these and other challenges.
I do believe,
however, that a solution to the conflicts in the Middle East is within
our grasp, provided that the conditions are created to enable the
solution to come into being. Also, if the parties involved can look
beyond the pointless question of which comes first, the chicken or the
egg, perhaps peace can finally get the needed period of incubation, and
can give birth to a new era in the Middle East.
As we know from
other cases, such as Northern Ireland, successful negotiation in the
cause of peace requires the investment of considerable time and
influence. The peoples of the Middle East must develop the needed trust
in the process. For that to happen, they must regain faith that the
outside world cares and is ready to give peace in their region the
sustained support and engagement it deserves.
It is time to move
away from thinking of dialogue as a reward for good behaviour —and to
recognize it instead as an essential tool for effecting such behaviour.
True peace requires dialogue and interaction between peoples, to enable
them to know, understand and accept one another.
It is vital for the region
and the world that a peace conference be convened with all the nations
of the region involved in order to reach a settlement guaranteed by
peace treaties for all the conflicts of the region.
We, as Middle East Council
of Churches, representing the member churches in the Middle East,
express today our deep concern about the situation of our Christian
brothers in the region, especially in the Holy Land and their continued
suffering. Christian migration from the Middle East is a serious issue,
as it affects Christian presence in a significant way. We are all well
aware that the rate of Christians in the Middle East is changing and the
decline in the number of Christians in the Middle East differs from
country to country depending on socio-economic and political climate.
These challenges often resort to them attempting leaving the region.
For there to be a true and
lasting peace in the region, we believe that respect for International
Law is the only way for a just and durable peace.
May we have the
courage, wisdom and determination to work and dream for a just and
lasting peace in our troubled region.
Guirguis Ibrahim Saleh
The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC)