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The Magi Initiative Conference 2022

Cambridge, UK

 

Bible Society Lebanon (Syria & Iraq) in partnership with the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) and in collaboration with St Mellitus College, the Cambridge Center for Christianity Worldwide and the Middle East Council of Churches,organized the second inter-confessional, ecumenical dialogue conference among church leaders entitled “The Magi Initiative: East ⇆ West”.

After more than two years of the first Magi conference that took place on October 10-12, 2019 in Beirut (in the East), and after the long phase of lockdowns due to the pandemic, the second conference was hosted in Cambridge, England on May 12-14, 2022 (in the West).

The title of the conference “Bringing Christians together, through God’s Word, to support their communities during critical times.” It elaborated aim of this initiative to enhance rich dialogue, build mutual support for communities under pressure, and gain a better understanding about reading and synergizing Bible-based Eastern spirituality with Western scholarship.

The opening ceremony took place at Westminster College Hall on the evening of May 12 with around 50 participants from different churches and countries. The welcoming words included:

Oldi Morava, BFBS Director of International Mission, who commenced the conference welcoming all the participants from around the world and the UK, followed with words of welcome from:

Dr. Muthuraj Swamy, Director of Cambridge Center for Christianity Worldwide who was hosting the opening event.

Dr. Mike Bassous, General Secretary and CEO of the Bible Society in Lebanon, who highlighted the opportunities that the Church and its organizations can derive from the multiple crises faced and the three lessons/opportunities derived from the first MAGI initiative conference: (1) The publishing of the proceedings of the previous conference at its one-year anniversary; (2) a strong steering committee which met regularly over the past few months to arrange for this conference; and (3) the launch of a new South-North initiative “The Ethiopian Pilgrim initiative.”

Rt Revd Dr Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington and President of St Mellitus College – also a member of the Steering Group – shared his insights on the theme of this second gathering, the Grace of Exile, and on the importance of such global dialogues across cultures.

Fr Antoine Al Ahmar, Director of the Theological and Ecumenical department at the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) shared how the quest of the Magi coming to the Holy Land inspired MECC team to prepare the Prayer for Christian Unity week in January 2022 and how this calling is for all of us: to be able to change direction to rediscover our true calling in the midst of hardship.

Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London and President of BFBS welcomed the dialogue initiative from both Eastern and Western perspectives, as in his capacity as an Eastern Church leader situated in the West, he could relate to both perspectives and appreciate the challenges both regions are experiencing.

Metropolitan of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church of Beirut George Bacouni and Vice Chair of the Bible Society in Lebanon invited the participants to contemplate what the Bible message is saying to all during such times of pressure and what are some lessons that we can learn from the Exile story of God’s people.

In addition to the presential words, two online interventions via audio-visual technology were introduced, mainly:

  • Mrs Carla Khijoyan, Programme Executive for the Middle East at the World Council of Churches (WCC), who had participated in the 2019 Magi Initiative on behalf of WCC and was keen on this follow-up conference in the East.
  • Mrs Fiona Bruce, Member of the UK Parliament and special envoy on Freedom of Religion and Belief, who presented an overall analysis of human and religious rights from the UK government perspective.

In conclusion, Canon Rev Dr Joshva Raja John,   Head of BFBS’ International Bible Advocacy Center summed the opening session with a few reflective words and a prayer. This was followed by cocktails and networking session. On May 13 and 14, the participants presented papers and documents relating to the following subthemes of the conference accompanied by lively discussions that aimed at building bridges and friendships:

 

  1. The Grace of Exile: Biblical perspectives on character formation through hardship
    1. Lessons from the Old Testament as a document of an exiled people
    2. Rediscovering our true calling in the midst of hardship
    3. Jesus and the Christian living in light of the final destination

 

  1. Current situation on Christian communities under pressure
    1. Report on the Independent Review for the Foreign Secretary of FCO Support for Persecute Christians
    2. Situation of Christian communities under pressure in the Middle East
    3. Secularism and the pressures on the Western Christian communities

 

  1. Practical examples of using the Scriptures for witness in our cultural contexts
    1. Middle East case-studies
    2. Western European case-studies

And concluded with the following communique


 

The Bible Society’s vision is to holistically meet the needs of communities through the transforming Word of God. As a Christian inter-confessional, ecumenical, non-profit organization, it works to spread the Holy Bible’s message and culture to all generations through translating, publishing, and distributing the Scriptures using visual, audio-visual, readable, and digital formats, encouraging people to read and engage with God’s Word, advocating the Bible cause to uphold human dignity, and partnering with all Churches and Christian institutions.

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