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Christian leader calls for peace in Middle East

A VISITING Christian leader has lent his support to the people of Palestine and Iraq. His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I, the Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church, called for peace in the region and said Chris-tians around the world are praying for Muslims both in Palestine and Iraq.

"Our chur-ch does not interfere in politics, but we support all dialogues aimed at establishing peace in the Middle East," he told the GDN at Bahrain International Airport.

"The suffering of people in Iraq and Palestine deeply hurts us and we raise our concern at world forums and pray for these countries."

His Holiness, who is also one of the presidents of the World Council of Churches, was in Bahrain on his way to Muscat, where the Jacobite Church is celebrating its silver jubilee.

He was welcomed at the airport by former Islamic Affairs Under-Secretary Shaikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Khalifa.

"I am proud of Bahrain because of its contributions to world peace and respect for all religions," said the Patriarch.

"His Majesty King Hamad, who received me in Bahrain two years ago, is one of the most respected world leaders whom I admire a lot.

"When I talk about world leaders who strive for peace and work in the true spirit of humanity, one of the first names which comes to mind is King Hamad."

The Patriarch recalled the initiative taken by His Majesty to convene an international conference of Islamic and Christian leaders in Bahrain.

"Such dialogues help people of both religions to understand each other better," he said.

"When we come close to one another and love one another, we become closer to God."

The Patriarch also praised the role of Deputy Prime Minister and Islamic Affairs Minister Shaikh Abdulla bin Khalid Al Khalifa and Shaikh Khalifa towards the success of such dialogues.

"It is extremely vital for Muslims and Christians in the Arab world to understand each other better, as they belong to the same culture and speak the same language," he said.

Shaikh Khalifa said he was honoured to again meet His Holiness, who recently celebrated the silver jubilee of the patriarchal enthronement.

"His wise leadership has enabled the universal church to transcend all national barriers by the very nature of his office," he said.

The Patriarch presented a medal and a book marking the patriarchal silver jubilee to Shaikh Khalifa.

Vicar Father Shyjan Kuriakose and committee members of the St Peter's Jacobite Syrian Church in Bahrain and businessman Dr Fawaz Ishak also met the Patriarch at the airport.

His Holiness was accompanied by Patriarchal Assistant Mor Athanasius Elia Bahi and Patriarchal Vicar for Indian Affairs Mor Athanasius Geevargis. His Holiness, who has his headquarters in Damascus, is the 122nd Patriarch on the Apostolic Throne of St Peter and is the only Patriarch to complete 25 years as the church supreme head in more than 100 years. The Patriarch made official visits to Bahrain in 1989 and 2003.



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