Middle Eastern Delegation for Religious Equality Ends Two-Week Tour

A delegation of Middle Eastern religious leaders, policy advisors and academics concluded a two-week tour of major U.S. cities with a call for religious equality and justice.

The seven-member delegation, a part of the Arab Group for Christian-Muslim Dialogue and hosted by Church World Service, met with Christians across the nation to correct “distorted stereotype of Christians and Muslims in the Middle East as being in a pervasive culture clash,” CWS reported Thursday.

Stopping by Chicago, Charlotte, Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C., the group told American university, advocacy and religious groups that Christians and Muslims live peacefully in the Middle East “despite the problems that do exist in some areas,” and urged U.S. policy makers to “treat everyone in the Middle East equally and look upon the region through the eyes of justice."

According to comments made before the start of the tour, Abbas al-Halabi, a Lebanese Druze and President of the Arab Group for Christian-Muslim dialogue, said plans for the delegation were made two years ago - in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.

Al-Halabi said the delegation wanted “to inform Americans about the common lives shared by Christians and Muslims in...[the] region" prior to the tour. He added that "Christianity has been in the Middle East for centuries."

By the tour’s end, both the delegation and those they visited were thankful for the trip.

"It was really exciting for people, hearing the heartbeat of history right before us, and experiencing that we were integrated into a much larger system,” said the Rev. David Jordan, host of a community dialogue with the delegates in Charlotte.

The delegates said one of the realizations they had was that mainline Christian churches are making a positive impact on establishing a balanced view on Islam and Christianity.

The delegation included Muhammad Sammak, a Lebanese Muslim and former advisor to the late Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafik Hariri; Dr. Antoine Messara, a Lebanese Christian and professor at the Lebanese University Department of Communication; and Dr. Nadia Mahmoud Mustafa, an Egyptian Muslim and professor of political science at Cairo University.