MIAMI, April 1, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Miami's St. Thomas University was home to a historic visit from the Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See Mission to the United Nations, Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, March 30th. The University's School of Law presented a symposium on religious freedoms commencing with the Archbishop's keynote address "Catholic Social Teaching in Defense of Christian Minorities in the Middle East." The scholarly event was held in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Miami and Pax Romana (Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs-USA), the North American Federation of the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs. It was also sponsored by the Southern Chapter of the Order of Malta.
Born in India, Archbishop Chullikatt served as the Apostolic Nuncio in Honduras, various countries of southern Africa, the Philippines, the Mission to the United Nations in New York, and at the Secretariat of State in the Vatican. Having served as Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq and Jordan, he is a leading world messenger of peace and religious freedom who has extensively documented incidents of violence and terror that have hit the Christian churches of the Middle East.
His message to students, faculty and community members gathered at the Law School Moot Court Room was the urge to connect with world student governments and non-governmental organizations in the demand to enforce full rights of equality as the first item in any government agenda. The rest follows, meaning the respect for the right to worship freely without persecution, to rebuild churches, change one's credo and conduct public displays of worship. "It sounds like something we take for granted in America…" he said. "But in addition to praying, we are all called to denounce cases of harassment, discrimination and even bloody shots to priests and Christians while conducting worship with no other reason than being affiliated with a Christian religion." He referred to a major tenet of Catholic Social Teaching – the urgency for inter-religious dialogue. According to the Nuncio, fundamentalist groups are a real threat to the safety of these peoples. Religious leaders – including Christians and Muslims – gather to discuss propositions, yet many feel frustrated as they hear about "still working on it…"
His Easter message communicates that Christians are always supporters of peace for the common good of the society, that Middle Eastern Christians want to be part of the solution and participate in dialogue as they know that it is only though dialogue that peace can be attained. It is imperative to engage ALL groups to talk. Statistics point to an approximate 5.7 million Christians in the Middle East. The figures may be larger since countries like Iraq conduct census that are not thorough and exclude Christians. The fundamentalist opposition keeps postponing census renewal.
That same afternoon and moderated by School of Law Professor Mark Wolff – also a main representative to the United Nations headquarters in New York for Pax Romana (ICMICA)- a panel of scholars and experts met to discuss "Protection of Christians in the Middle East: Civil Society, United Nations & Religious Perspectives." The panel included: Marie Dennis, Director of the Maryknoll Catholic missioners' Office for Global Concerns in Washington DC and New York; former Ambassador Francis Dubois, who had a distinguished career at the UN with special assignments in Iraq, Algeria and Tunisia; and Monsignor Gabriel Ghanoum Pastor of St. Nicholas Melkite Catholic Church in North Miami and Patriarchal Exarch of the Eparchy of Mexico. Monsignor Ghanoum was also Rapporteur for Special Assembly for the Middle East Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in 2010.
As a Catholic university (affiliated with the Archdiocese of Miami), St. Thomas University is internationally recognized for its Law School degrees in Intercultural Human Rights as well as its United Nations internships, its leadership in the fight to end human trafficking, its Pro Bono Program, and Human Rights Institute, which expanded its Miami-Dade offices to Broward and Palm Beach Counties and provides direct services to thousands of newly arrived immigrants to South Florida. Under the leadership of the new School of Law Dean, Douglas E. Ray, the School continues to bring national and international experts to campus to discuss cutting edge legal issues. For additional information on St. Thomas University programs, please visit www.stu.edu.