Melkite Cultural Center Unites Christians and Muslims

BEIRUT (CNS) — The Melkite Catholic Church has opened a cultural center, funded entirely by Sultan Qaboos bin Said, ruler of Oman.

The “Al-Liqa’a” center has as its mission “building bridges across a divided world.” Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham of Damascus, Syria, helped inaugurate the center May 10.

The Melkite church “has always been considered as a church without borders, that makes every possible effort to build bridges in a divided world, through dialogue without frontiers — a religious, cultural dialogue that embraces the whole of civilization,” the patriarch said.

Located near the Melkite patriarchate in Rabweh, about 12 miles from Beirut, the 86,200 square-foot building is part of a larger complex that includes a school.

Liqa’a includes a museum of Melkite church history, with exhibits of Byzantine art and iconography; a research center for Melkite studies; an extensive Melkite library; a center for Christian-Islamic research; and a theater, conference room and guesthouse.

While “Liqa’a” in Arabic means “meeting,” in a broader sense it refers to “encounter.” The patriarch said the term was chosen to express the essential goal of the institution, “that of meeting, in the absolute sense.”

“Liqa’a is a center for meeting between God and man, through faith, religion and belief. It is a religious meeting, of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faith, and moreover, of meeting will all sorts of convictions, even outside those of church, synagogue or mosque,” he said.

The center follows the establishment in 1983 of the Al-Liqa Center in Jerusalem, founded by the Melkite church, along with Palestinian Christian and Muslim scholars. The patriarch headed its board of trustees until his election as head of the Melkite church in 2000.

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