BEIRUT — The Middle East Council of Churches called for prayer and peace-building initiatives amid escalating tensions in the Middle East and the Arab world.

The council’s executive committee, concluding a two-day meeting in Cyprus Jan. 22, said its gathering occurred “in the midst of the bloody and painful events that beset our countries.”

In their final statement, the church leaders called on Mideast Christians “to adhere to their land, heritage and identity with faith and hope, and to enhance their role in consolidating coexistence, mutual respect and social solidarity.” They added that sufferings are not only endured by Christians but affect all of the people of the region.

The church leaders called attention to the “aggravating suffering of the Syrian people,” and they urged nations “to lift the siege” on the country and “support the path of establishing security and building peace.” They also urged nations to work for the return of refugees and people displaced within their own countries.

Regarding the protest movement in Iraq, they said it aims “to achieve social justice, economic integrity, good governance and national sovereignty” as well as to establish principles of accountability and fight corruption “through a fair judiciary system.”

They also recognized Lebanese citizens’ efforts “to restore their decent living by fighting corruption and demanding proper management.”

The church leaders expressed their continued support to those who suffer “the consequences of the occupation, apartheid policy” and the indiscriminate expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian territory, while demanding respect for the freedom to follow their faith.

They called for continued prayer regarding the fate of two bishops kidnapped in Syria in 2013: Orthodox Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo and Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of Aleppo.

The Middle East Council of Churches meeting coincides with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Members of the executive committee represented Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches.

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