The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has urgently appealed to Christians in the UK to become better informed of the crisis affecting fellow believers in the Holy Land, who he says “feel ignored or forgotten” by Western Christians.
Dr Williams was commenting ahead of a conference at Lambeth Palace on Wednesday, to be joined by BibleLands, a Christian charity providing financial support to the Holy Land.
The conference is being held to address ways in which Christians in the UK can support Christians in the Middle East.
Dr Williams will address the conference alongside Archbishop Paul Sayah (Maronite Archbishop of Haifa and the Holy Land) and Bishop Angaelos (General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK). Lord Steel, meanwhile, will chair a question and answer panel.
Describing the situation of Christians in the Middle East ahead of tonight’s conference, Dr Williams said: â€œThere is an urgent need for people in the UK to wake up to the fact that Christians in the Middle East are living through a time of change more dramatic and more costly than anything that has been seen for a thousand years and more.”
He went on to highlight the “tragic situation” of Christian refugees from Iraq and the “quiet but numerically huge exodus of Christians”, particularly educated Christians, out of the entire Middle East region.
“The remaining Christian communities are left exposed to violence or extremism in many countries, and the societies they live in are deprived of some of their most creative and resourceful citizens,” said Dr Williams.
The conference will highlight a new book from the Middle East Council of Churches, ‘Christianity: A History in the Middle East, which outlines the historical background to the difficulties of Christians in the region today.
“We badly need to be better informed about both the present and the past of these communities,” said Dr Williams.
The conference will also announce a new scholarship to study the impact of migration among Iraqi Christians, supported by the Archbishopâ€™s Mission to the Assyrians, the Philip Usher Fund and the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association. In addition to this, the Nikaean Ecumenical Trust is giving a Bishop Buxton Bursary to two Syrian Orthodox deacons from Lebanon to study English in the UK for two months and to learn something of the church in the UK.
He said: “These are small gestures in the overall context of anxiety and suffering for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, but our hope is that they will do something to raise awareness on behalf of Christian communities in the ancient heartlands of faith who so often feel ignored or forgotten by us their Western fellow-Christians.â€