MECC Executive Committee Meeting – Final Statement

The Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches held its third meeting at the Patriarchal See of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, in Atchane – Bikfaya, Lebanon, 22-23 January 2019. The meeting was presided by His Holiness Mor Ignatius Aphrem II– Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, and MECC President for the Oriental Orthodox Family, by His Beatitude Cardinal Mar Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Babylon for Chaldeans, MECC President  for the Catholic Family, and by Right ReverendDr. Habib Badr, President of the National Evangelical Union of Lebanon, and MECC President Council for the Evangelical Family. His Beatitude Youhanna X Yazigi, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, and MECC President of the Council for the Orthodox Family, could not attend the meeting due to health conditions.

On the first day, prior the Executive Committee works, a theological-ecumenical panel entitled “Just Ask for Justice” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18) took place. Following the opening prayer and a tribute to Coptic Orthodox Bishop Bishoy of Damietta and Kafr El-Sheikh of blessed memory, moderator Rev. Fr. Edgard El-Haybe, Director of the Higher Institute of Religious Studies at the St. Joseph University, gave the floor to the three panelists: Dr. Daniel Ayouch, professor at the St John of Damscus Theological Institute in the University of Balamand. Right Reverend Najlaa Kassab, President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches and Director of the Christian Education Department at the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, and Dr. Melhem Khalaf, President of the Farah Al-Ataa Foundation.

After calling on members, approval of the agenda, ratification of the previous Executive Committee Meeting minutes held at the Antonine University in Baabda, Lebanon, on 25-26 January 2018, a letter was shared to the MECC Executive Committee from Lebanese MP Neemat Efrem in which he invoked the Council’s prayers to trigger the initiatives of peace and stability in the Middle East.

Dr. Souraya Bechealany, Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches, presented her report, stressing on seven priorities of the MECC agenda:
1- Updating the vision, mission and objectives of the Council and defining the policies that guide its work and programs.
2- Launching the Theological and Ecumenical Department, and the Communication and Public Relations Department.
3- Empowering the Relief Service and including it within the circle of Diakonia while updating the strategy of the Department for Services to the Palestinian Refugees.
4- Launching the archiving and documentation process.
5- Stimulating the representation of MECC in international, regional and local communities and forums.
6- Following-up on the administrative and financial policies and procedures in context of the institutionalizing the council.
7- Drawing-up a sustainable funding plan to financially support and consolidate the Council.

After discussion, Dr. Bechealany’s report was praised and ratified by the Executive Committee. The Committee also confirmed the nomination by the Evangelical Family of Right Reverend Refaat Fekri Said, President of the Evangelical Synod of the Nile in Egypt, as the Associate Secretary General of the Council on behalf of the Evangelical Churches Family.

The first day ended with an ecumenical prayer service on the occasion of the Week of Prayer for the Churches’ Unity in the church of St. Severios the Great, in the Patriarchal See of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East.

Participants included Holiness Ignatius Joseph III Yonan, Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and all the East for the Syriac Catholic Churches, His Holiness Mor Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Spiteri, Apostolic Nuncio to Lebanon, as well as a number of bishops, pastors, priests, nuns and faithful from different denominations.

On the second day, reports to the Executive Committee were presented by the Theological and Ecumenical Department, the Communication Department, the Department for Services to the Palestinian Refugees, the Ecumenical Relief Service Department and the Council’s financial report. The Executive Committee approved the reports and invited all departments to proceed with their tasks according to the presented programs.

After expressing their gratitude to HH Mor Ignatius Aphrem II for his kind hospitality, the Committee members declared the following:

First, the participants pray that the constitutional institutions in Lebanon be restored to their normal status, especially pleading for the establishment of a new Government, for peace in Syria, a safe and dignified return for the displaced to their homeland, and for peace and security in Iraq, allowing the return of its uprooted sons to their fatherland. They asked God for the establishment of the Palestinian State according to the international resolutions, for the return of the Palestinian refugees preserving their national identity and rejecting the declaration of Jerusalem as the Capital of the Israel. They solicit the support of stability in Jordan, and commend the opening of the Christ Cathedral, as well as Al-Fatah Al-Alim Mosque in Egypt which is a sign of national unity. The Committee calls as well for enhancing the dialogues towards the unification of the island of Cyprus.

Second, the participants call the international community and the Arab world to deploy all efforts to release the kidnapped bishops Yohana Ibrahim and Boulos Yaziji, as well as all the kidnapped priests and lay people. They condemn all forms of extremism and terrorism. They hope for cooperation between the Churches and the Islamic authorities, in order to develop a rational religious discourse built on the values of love, peace, social justice and dialogue, as well as to establish a roadmap to collaborate in formulating inclusive citizenship.

Third, the participants condemn the unfair and vicious attack on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Occupied Palestine led by one of the Zionist institutions. The program was established by the World Council of Churches in 2002, at the request of the Church leaders in Jerusalem.

Finally, everyone raised their prayer to the Lord Jesus, who unites them in love, putting once more their hope in the Lord, “the Source of all hope and consolation,” trusting His guidance to continue working in common witness for the God of love, mercy and peace. They also expressed their solidarity with the sons and daughters of the Oriental Churches, who bear witness for the Lord Jesus Christ amid the challenges, because “whoever trusts in God is not ashamed” (Psalm 70: 1).