We must remember Christians in the Middle East, says Archbishop of Birmingham


The Archbishop of Birmingham spoke of the importance of remembering "our brothers and sisters of the suffering Church in the Holy Land and the Middle East" during an address at Coventry Cathedral yesterday.

Archbishop Bernard Longley's remarks came at the beginning of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which traditionally runs between the ancient festival of the Chair of St Peter on the 18th and the Conversion of St Paul on January 25.

The week hopes to address and go some way to repair the "scandal" of disunity between the Anglican and Catholic Churches.

"To suggest that disunity is something acceptable is declaring that Christ himself is divided – and that really is a scandal," the team behind the week say.

First commemorated in 1908 by Anglican priests Spencer Jones and Paul Wattson, the week of unity has since been adopted by tens of thousands of Christians all over the world who want to see reconciliation between the different traditions.

Archbishop Bernard Longley, Co-Chairman of ARCIC III - the third phase of an international dialogue between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church – stressed the importance of standing in solidarity with one another, regardless of the tradition that we follow, during his address.

"Whatever the Christian family to which we belong we are already united as brothers and sisters because we have all received baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ," he said.

"Yet we also realise that through our baptism the Lord challenges us to contribute to the fulfilment of his prayer that they may all be one.

"Only by allowing ourselves to be transformed together can we hope to give a more credible witness to the Christ who wants to walk beside us."

He noted the importance of supporting Christians and the Church worldwide, making special reference to organisations such as Friends of the Holy Land which gives support in housing, micro-finance, the distribution of food and clothing, while also hosting pilgrimages by offering links with local communities.

He praised the charity for the way in which it "draws together Christians from all our Churches in prayerful and practical support of these ancient Christian communities to whom we owe so much".

Catholic bishops from Europe, South Africa and North America have also recently returned from a visit to the Holy Land, during which a focus was put on prayer, pilgrimage and advocacy for peace and justice in the unstable region – issues which the Archbishop labelled as central to a living faith.

"The work of Christian unity is directly linked with the search for justice and peace that lies at the heart of the Church's mission," he declared.

"The Church is called to demonstrate that unanimity – a oneness of soul – that characterises the Kingdom of God and lies at the service of the world."

During the Week of Prayer, the Millennium Goals, which largely centre on reducing global poverty, will be used as a focus for prayer for vulnerable people around the world.

In addition, Christian Aid are providing "Go and Do" action points to accompany daily reflections which are designed to underline the importance of actively advocating for justice in our own communities as well as on a global scale.

Resources can be found here

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