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Arab Christians voice hope, concern over Trump's speech to Muslim leaders


  • U.S. President Donald Trump walks with Saudi King Salman during the opening session of the Gulf Cooperation Council summit May 21 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (CNS photo/Saudi Press Agency via EPA)
  • U.S. President Donald Trump is greeted by Saudi King Salman during the opening session of the Gulf Cooperation Council summit May 21 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (CNS photo/Saudi Press Agency via EPA)

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DEAD SEA, Jordan (CNS) -- Arab Christians voiced hope and concern over U.S. President Donald Trump's first foreign visit and his speech in Saudi Arabia to the Muslim world, in which he urged a peace-focused Islam as a counter movement to extremism.

"I hope that President Trump will remind us that we have to think about youth and the future of the Middle East and its countries," Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Yousif Mirkis of Kirkuk, Iraq, told Catholic News Service. He spoke on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meeting on the Jordanian shores of the Dead Sea May 19-21 as Trump traveled to neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Youth make up the majority of most Middle Eastern countries, and they face a bleak socio-economic future, with youth unemployment hovering around 30 percent. Archbishop Mirkis cited it as one of the drivers laying the groundwork for extremist violence -- frustration over little socio-economic prospects.

"Differences are a part of our culture. We cannot resolve the problem of differences, but dealing with these differences in a meaningful way can make our lives more peaceful, like here in Jordan," he said, also pointing to the region's rich mosaic of ethnic and religious diversity.

Over the past three years, his parishes have aided some 500,000 Iraqi Christian and other religious minorities fleeing persecution of so-called Islamic State and sectarian violence that has engulfed Mosul and the Ninevah Plain.

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