Remember Christians in the Middle East'. This was the theme of a seminar held at York St John University in York on Saturday. Sponsored by Pax Christi, the British Province of Carmelites and Middlesbrough Diocese Justice & Peace Network, the seminar brought together more than one hundred and fifty people to hear Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah and Anthony O'Mahony, Director of the Centre for Christianity and Inter-religious Dialogue at Heythrop College, University of London speak on the theme. Patriarch Sabbah spoke of the good ecumenical relations between the thirteen Churches of Jerusalem who regularly speak with one voice when addressing some of the deep problems faced by Christians in Israel and Palestine caused by the on-going conflict. While acknowledging the real fears of Israel he went on to say that it is often the powerful military actions of Israel that elicit counter violence from militant Palestinians groups. He stressed that the majority of the Palestinian people - Christians and Muslims, seek a peaceful and just resolution to the conflict but often feel let down by the in-action of the international community, including the EU and British government. He challenged those present to find ways of being in solidarity with people in both Israel and Palestine who are working for peace and gave as an example the ecumenical week of solidarity between 2 - 9 June that has been called to mark the 40th anniversary of Israel's occupation of Palestine. Anthony O'Mahony spoke of the historical displacement of the Christian community in the Middle East, exacerbated by the recent conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. He sited Lebanon as an example. Lebanon once had a Christian majority that has been greatly diminished as a result of the Lebanese Civil War and more recently the war between Lebanon and Israel. He challenged the audience not to forget Christians in Middle East - the heart and the origin of the Christian family - now a minority faith in the region. They have experienced and continue to experience great suffering. In spite of this, he spoke about the positive opportunity created for ecumenical cooperation in the Middle East, seeing this as a future feature of Christian identity in the region. Speaking of the Christian family in Palestine, Patriarch Sabbah described them as a community of endurance with a deep will to exist. The Seminar was one of the events organised by the British Province of Carmelites to mark the 800th anniversary of the Carmelite rule of life and was preceded by a Mass celebrated in York Minister by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Source: Pax Christi
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