‘Why the Silence?’ There is too little uproar over the persecution of Christians

Posted on October 24, 2013. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , |

It’s hard to miss the news today: in Pakistan earlier this month, more than 80 people died in a bomb attack on a Protestant Church; last weekend, assailants killed three members of a Christian wedding party in Egypt; in Syria, Jihadists are ever more brazen in their determination to target Christians. But, still, President Obama and other leaders in the West—though remembering the victims and acknowledging the evil in passing—are not making any concerted effort to make this particular slaughter of innocents a foreign policy priority.

However, at least here in the US, a new book may help tilt matters in the right direction. The National Catholic Reporter’s well-known reporter John Allen just published “The Global War on Christians—Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution” (Image). Aid to the Church in Need is grateful to John for his generous acknowledgement of our organization as a key player when it comes to supporting the suffering and persecuted Church, and as an important resource for his exhaustive research and reporting.

The book—which could serve as a policy primer for both Western politicians and religious leaders, even as it educates the lay audience as well—sets out to give the lie to a number of what the author labels as pernicious myths: “the myth that Christians are at risk only where they’re a minority; “the myth that no one saw it coming;” “the myth that it’s all about Islam;” “the myth that it is only persecution if the motives are religious;” and “the myth that anti-Christian persecution is a political issue.”

Significantly, John opens the book with a reflection on why, indeed, governments and even Western religious institutions have been so silent in the face of the global persecution of Christians. “On the whole,” he writes, “the war on Christians remains the world’s best-kept secret.” He cites the Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, who reflects on the ever worsening plight of Arab Christians in the Middle East: “Does anybody hear our cry? How many atrocities must we endure before somebody, somewhere, comes to our aid?”

John cites a number of reasons for the silence on the part of the secular world: there is an overall ignorance of religious issues, as well as a “reflexive hostility to institutional religion … [and people] conditioned by such views are inclined to see Christianity as the agent of repression, not its victim.” Then there is the fact that “the war on Christians is also simply too far away.” Moreover, the author writes, persecuted Christians fall through the cracks of the left-right divide—they are too Christian for liberals and too foreign for conservatives.

In the end, secular inaction might be expected, John suggests, but what about the relative silence of mainstream Western Christianity? One key reason, he writes, is that Christians in the US and Western Europe have no personal experience of persecution, plus there is the “broad tendency” in the West to “see the primary function as promoting inner peace and tranquility.” Dwelling on the often incredibly cruel treatment of Christians abroad is simply not very pleasant and hence easily avoided.

Then there is the heavy investment in interfaith initiatives on the part of mainstream Christianity in the West, which has produced what John calls “the risk of ‘interfaith correctness’” that basically avoids confrontation with the world of Islam or Hinduism. Finally, the author points the finger at “a distressing share of Christian time and treasure today [being] eaten up by internal battles, making it difficult to galvanize a unified response on anything.”

We heartily salute John upon the publication of this powerful and important book. We join him in calling on all Christians and people of good will to “wake up”—as the back of the book jacket urges—to the plight of the suffering and persecuted Church. On countless occasions, our founder, Father Werenfried van Straaten, insisted upon a truth that John here gives a dynamic, contemporary spin: Christians in the West are called to come to the aid of persecuted and suffering brothers and sisters, with whom they form one body in Christ—the gift of faith comes with a huge responsibility.

Please click here for information and a sample chapter from “The Global War on Christians—Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution.”

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‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Mt. 25:40).

Posted on October 21, 2013. Filed under: Projects | Tags: , , , |

A message to the Maronite community in the US

By Bishop Elias Sleman of the Maronite Eparchy of Latakia, Syria

I cannot find the proper words that could describe the suffering inflicted on our beloved children—all of them, in particular the little babies and the distraught widows. It is very hard to witness the suffering of innocents, especially the suffering of the little children who are at a total loss.

Human dignity is being mutilated, families disintegrated, people seeking to leave the homeland due to the extreme dangers surrounding them. Not only people’s future is at serious risk, but, more importantly, their very life as well

The basics for daily survival are getting very scarce: heating fuel is found only on the black markets and—if found—at exorbitant prices; there is no clothing. Many escaped for their lives only with what they had on, leaving everything behind to be pillaged by the militants; no blankets, no heating—there are constant power outages; daily food has to be bought at outrageous prices. There is nothing left that would allow people to stay in their villages, in their homes.

Only those who live in areas untouched by violence have stayed in their homes. But even those are constantly exposed to the risks of sniper fire, bombs, and various threats by militants. They could face their death at any moment and in any place, even in their own home. They could be killed on the road, at home by a bomb, by a rocket, or by sniper fire. Death is a real threat and fear is their daily companion; there is thievery; and kidnappings seeking to extort money are a common occurrence; and even after the ransoms have been paid, the kidnapped are executed. Everyone feels exposed to all these dangers.

Our people used to live comfortably, but they don’t have money anymore. There is a serious need for funds, enough to help people stay in their homeland. Otherwise they would be forced to leave Syria behind and the country would lose the best of her own children who refused to get involved in the bloody violence. It is mostly Christians who refuse to kill and unfortunately themselves fall victim to the killers.

Our young generations have been turned from being upbeat and hopeful into de-motivated, desperate and deprived. All their hopes in life have been reduced to just staying alive. The sadness on the face of their parents overwhelms them and deprives them of enjoying one of their natural rights—their youth. Instead, they are forced to carry at a very early age the worries of adult life. The little ones are forced to trading their fun toys for war games and toy weapons, depriving them of their own innocence.

The priests in our eparchy are in no better condition. The resources of the eparchy have been depleted. They need to secure the survival of their families so that they can serve the parishioners. At this stage, there is no other opportunity for them to earn some income: there are no schools, no industries. They depend solely on the eparchy. Opportunities no longer exist, even for specialists. They share what little the parishioners still have. Those who have the capital and could invest—assuming they are even still in Syria—are afraid because of the country’s volatile position.

I need your help. I am speaking for them. They need your help, and I carry their cause. It is my religious duty to petition on their behalf. Christ is the one who entrusted them to me. You also belong to Him. It is in this spirit that I feel confident asking to help your brothers and sisters in Christ.

May our loving God overwhelm you with His blessings, and may He reward you by protecting your families. May he provide you with a happy and peaceful life, that is wide open with golden opportunities so that you and your children can live in dignity.

If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you! (Proverbs 19:17)

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Two Syrian bishops: Shepherds acting for the sake of their flock…are kidnapped

Posted on April 23, 2013. Filed under: News, Prayers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


On the afternoon of April 22nd, Syrian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox Archbishops of Aleppo, Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi were abducted on the road to Aleppo.  They had made the dangerous trip seeking the safe release of two brother priests, Fathers Michel Kayyal (Armenian Catholic) and Maher Mahfouz (Greek Orthodox). This past Sunday, you might recall that the Gospel was “The Good Shepherd” (John 10:27-30).  Jesus said that He is the Good Shepherd.  Following the example of Jesus, the archbishops were willing to place their lives in jeopardy for the sake of  the flock placed in their care.  There has been no contact from them nor their abductors.

This is happening with terrible frequency in the Middle East.  The many who are being held as hostages need our prayers and our dedicated support.  Pray for the safety and freedom of Fathers Michel Kayyal and Maher Mahfouz and Archbishops Yohanna Ibrahim and Boulos Yazigi.


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