By Walz, L. Humphrey
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs , Vol. XIII, No. 1
Christianity and the Middle East: MECC Holds Conferences on Middle East Economics and Ethics
By The Reverend L. Humphrey Walz
Two four-day ecumenical conferences on Middle Eastern economic development in Jordan and Cyprus are described in the current issue of the Middle East Council of Churches' MECC NewsReport. Each conference on the role of Christian ethics and morality in development involved about 50 theologians, economists, sociologists and educators from Melkite, Roman Catholic, Christian Orthodox and Protestant churches, agencies and institutions in the Middle East. There were also participants from Greece, Holland, Kenya, Switzerland and the U.S.A.
Anglican Bishop Samir Kafity opened a February conference in Amman, Jordan, with reminders of the MECC's history of commitment to cooperative service to all, regardless of social condition or ethnic or religious affiliation. The two conferences, General Secretary Gabriel Habib said, sought "to analyze the present economic situation, its causes and its effects on the people of the region...and...to define the appropriate response of the churches and the ecumenical movement." A major concluding agreement was to give top priority to fostering education that emphasizes "community, participation, justice and dignity." It was seen as obligatory, not just optional, to include interfaith dialogue on such "vital issues....as peace, environment and refugees" along with "more traditional subjects."
Obstacles to economic development described by economic expert Dr. Youssef Sayegh and others included the Arab world's alarming demographic changes, the rapid increase in the rate of illiteracy, limitations on popular participation in governmental decision-making, the unjust exploitation of national resources, burdensome national debts, the rising cost of living, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, and migration from rural areas to the cities and to the Gulf countries. …