Vatican: Israel-Palestinian conflict major Christian challenge

ROME (JTA) — Two days after the pope’s visit to a Rome synagogue, the Vatican issued a document citing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of the main challenges facing Christians in the Middle East.

The 30-page document released Tuesday also cited Muslim extremism as a major challenge.

"Several conflicts in the Middle East have arisen as a result of the main point of global attention, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the document said.

The document contains the guidelines for a Synod of Catholic Bishops from the Middle East to be held at the Vatican in October.

"Political conflicts in the region have a direct influence on the lives of Christians, both as citizens and as Christians," the document said, as part of a lengthy discussion of many issues facing Arab-Christian communities and their relationships with local governments, as well as with Jews and Muslims.

"The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories makes daily life difficult with regard to freedom of movement, the economy and religious life," the document said, adding that "certain Christian fundamentalist theologies use Sacred Scripture to justify Israel’s occupation of Palestine, making the position of Christian Arabs even more sensitive."

Christians living in Muslim countries face specific challenges, according to the document.

"Muslims frequently mix religion and politics, putting Christians in a precarious situation of being considered as non-citizens," it said. "Religious freedom and freedom of conscience are foreign to a Muslim mentality."

With the Internet, Islamic fundamentalist groups have become widespread. And, "with the rise of Islamism," the document added, "incidents against Christians are increasing almost everywhere."

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