On Thursday 23 May 2013, the International Conference on “Christian Presence and Witness in the Middle East” opened in Beirut. The conference was organized by the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches. Around two hundred persons from Europe, North America and Africa were invited.

Rev. Masis Choboyan read the message of His Holiness Aram I. In his message, the Catholicos greeted the participants, saying, “You have come from different parts of the world to reflect with us on the events in the region and its challenges these represent to us.”

He then made the following points:

Christians of the Middle East, who are deeply rooted in their countries, are strongly committed to Christian-Muslim dialogue.

Christians in the Middle East have defined their lives according to the Biblical Truths and the teachings of Jesus. Their history has been one of suffering and martyrdom, one of commitment to spiritual and human values and principles.

Although the Churches are currently facing great challenges, they are holding on to hope.

Despite their difficulties in the past, Christians have not cultivated hatred, but have always chosen the language of love. They have never accepted defeat and will continue their Christian witness inspired by faith, strengthened by hope and enabled by love.

For centuries Christians have existed with Islam. Although the relationship has not always been smooth, Christians and Muslims will continue to work together by upholding common values and seeking the road to coexistence.

As members of two Monotheistic religions and co-citizens, Christians and Muslims will stay together.

The Catholicos ended by stating: “As Christians we shall fulfill our duties and responsibilities and at the same time we shall remain attached to our religious and national rights as citizens and as communities.”

The Catholicos acknowledged the initiatives of the Vatican and the World Council of Churches to accompany the local churches. However, he asked churches outside the region not to work on their behalf, but to express the visible unity of the churches by empowering them in their witness and service to the Middle East.