Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News
SOUTHFIELD — In one of the first events of its kind anywhere in the world, leaders of Christian denominations from across the Middle East are meeting here this weekend to discuss preserving the faith in the much-troubled area of the world that bears its earliest roots.
Leaders of Christian denominations increasingly say they are isolated between Israel and some Muslim Palestinian groups, amid hostile factions in Iraq and persecuted in Egypt and Iran. The Vatican and other major Christian institutions have pleaded for peace and tolerance in the area, expressing concern for the very existence of the faith in the land of the Bible and the first Christians.
From Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and land that they call Palestine, Christian leaders have gathered in Metro Detroit at the invitation of the St. Thomas the Apostle Chaldean Catholic Diocese — amid the largest population of Iraqi Christians outside Iraq — to discuss the current travails and the future.
“I think both the fear and the warning are very loud,” said the Rev. Sharbel Maroon, a Maronite Catholic leader from Minnesota, who was born in Lebanon. “It is very clear what is happening to the faith of Christianity in Gaza and the Holy Land, in Iraq and Lebanon.
“We have begun to feel that the Middle East will become a land of darkness, with no Christ in it, and the churches will become only museums.”
After a reception Friday night, the symposium is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Hilton Garden Inn, 2500 American Drive, and from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday at the Mother of God Church hall, 25585 Berg Road.
Those in attendance include Bishop Elias Chacour of the Melkite Eparchy of All of Galilee in Jerusalem; Bishop Roland Abou-Jaoudeh, chairman of the television broadcaster Tele Lemeire-Lebanon; Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim of the St. Thomas Diocese; Bishop Ochagan Choloyan of Christian & Arab Middle Eastern Churches Together. Also in attendance is Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the representative of the Vatican to the United Nations.
“It is expected that a press release will be issued Sunday, summarizing the activities of the symposium and hopes for the future,” said Janan Senawi of Christian & Arab Middle Eastern Churches Together. “At noon, at Mother of God, we will have a Mass that is rarely celebrated, with all of the bishops of the different denominations.”