"Christians in the Arab world are an integral part of the Arab social fabric, and protecting their rights is a duty of all," the Muslim monarch told the delegation Sept. 7.
King Abdullah said Arabs, whether Muslims or Christians, face similar challenges in the Mideast, caught up in sectarian and other conflicts, adding that they also share a responsibility in addressing these challenges.
The Christian leaders met with the king during the three-day 11th General Assembly of the Middle East Council of Churches in Amman. In a final statement issued Sept. 8, the Christian leaders said they appreciated initiatives of Muslim institutions and leaders in the region "who have engaged in the rejection of extremism and violence, have affirmed the respect for diversity and recognized the role of Christians as an original and fundamental factor of the Arab civilization and of the entire region." They said they hoped such attitudes "translate into practical steps," especially in educational curricula, "in order to move to a new level of partnership and cooperation."
They also said they would set up a delegation to visit Mideast civic and religious leaders, including leaders of major institutions such as Sunni scholars al-Azhar University and the Shiites in Qom, Iran, with the aim of together seeking solutions that promote the continuity of the Christian presence in the region.
Their statement called for intervention to stop the war in Syria and asked nations and groups not to supply weapons to terrorist groups. It asked that Iraqis uprooted by the Islamic State in 2014 be allowed to return to their homes in safety and urged a speedy election for a Lebanese president, a post that has been vacant for more than two years. It asked for the international community, including Arab countries, to help displaced persons and refugees. It also reiterated support for the Palestinian people and their right to statehood.
The Christian leaders appealed for the release of all hostages, especially the two Orthodox archbishops of Aleppo, kidnapped in 2013 in northern Syria while on a humanitarian mission.
Address the meeting on its opening day, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan said the current situation requires effective dialogue, moderation and mercy as well as cooperation with "our Muslim brothers in the face of all attempts to uproot us from our land."
"Our message to our Muslim brothers is that we will continue, in spite of all the challenges, in the common life and in living together," he said.