The Other Victims of the War in Syria: Christians Tortured, Terrorized, Killed and Driven From Their Ancient Home
are a good resource for all of our readers concerned about our brethren in Syria and throughout the Middle East.
In October, the body of a beloved Greek Orthodox priest, Fr Fadi Haddad, 43, was found along the side of a road. He had been mutilated and his eyes were gouged out. A young mother and close family friend told Aid to the Church in Need, "My family and friends very much feel under threat. People from the area have said that extremists have gone through the streets shouting 'Alawites to the grave, Christians to Beirut'.They want to kick us out. They say that if Christians refuse to leave they will end up in the grave like the Alawites.(a Shia sect)
"Nobody seems to care what is happening to us Christians in Syria.The government we had in the past was bad but at least we were safe. At least we could walk the streets. You'd never think you might be bombed by extremists. Not anymore. Now it's very scary. Now they are bombing churches. Look at what has happened to our churches in places like Aleppo and Homs. The extremists threaten us Christians when we want to celebrate major feasts like Christmas and Easter. They don't want us in the area at all."
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim presided over Fr Haddad's funeral Liturgy. He had ordained him to the Holy Priesthood in 1995. He called the slain priest a "martyr of reconciliation and harmony". He added: "We strongly condemn this brutal and barbaric act against civilians, the innocent and the men of God who strive to be apostles of peace."
Like most of my readers, the continual images coming out of the Syrian tragedy plague me. The horrors inflicted upon men, women and children by a regime which seems to have no conscience continually fill our television, computer and smart phone screens with an almost surreal regularity. However, the infliction of wounds and murderous behavior is not limited to the current regime in Syria. Some who claim to be combating the regime seem just as hell bent on killing, maiming and inflicting evil upon the people of Syria. These rebel troops are increasingly controlled by Jihadists.
Evil knows no bounds. It must be exposed by the only force able to vanquish it, the love of the God whose heart breaks for the victims; the God who is fully revealed in the Sacred Heart of His beloved Son which was pierced by the soldiers spear on Golgotha's Hill. That is why, in the face of all that happens in the Middle East, I try to pay special attention to the plight of the Christians in that ancient land which has such a rich place in our Christian history. I also try, as Editor in Chief of Catholic Online, to call regular attention to the plight of our Christian brethren who suffer such intense persecution precisely because they remain faithful to the ancient faith.
Last month I wrote an article entitled "Trappist Nuns in Syria Challenge Us to Live as Messengers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace" These heroic nuns intentionally moved from their motherhouse in Italy to this area in Syria to pray for peace and become a place of refuge for the suffering Church and others who seek peace. These holy and happy nuns of Syria make me proud to be a Catholic Christian. Their life reveals the beauty of the prophetic and timeless mission of the Catholic Church. In 2005 they left their beautiful Monastery of Valserena in Italy to found a monastery in Syria. They left a place of peace for a place plagued by the intrinsic evil of war.
They were inspired by the heroic witness of seven Cistercian monks of Tibhirine who were martyred in 1996 in Algeria. The witness of these heroic monks is chronicled in an extraordinary film entitled "Of Gods and Men". You can read more about the life and sacrificial service of these holy women here. I call the sisters to the attention of my readers once again in order to encourage you to pray for them - and with them for the Christians of Syria. These nuns stand at the center of the Lord's profound plan for this beautiful land which is the home of some of our most inspiring descendants as Christians.
They explained their decision to leave Italy and travel to Syria in these words: "There is another important reason for choosing this land to build a new monastic foundation, even if, indeed, we were led to Syria by the providence. Here, in fact, the development of Christianity started. It shortly spread throughout Minor Asia , Greece, Rome and then Armenia, India up to China.Since (the) first centuries, the missionary action was borne and carried out by a very much lively monastic movement, arisen in the same time and independently as regards to the Egyptian one, more well-known. Saints like Aphrahat, Ephrem the Syrian, Simeon Stylites, Maron, Isaac of Nineveh and many others following their marks like John Chrysostom and John of Damascus, started a very rich spiritual tradition. We want to follow in the wake of them, starting from our Latin and Benedictine tradition, convinced about the fruitfulness coming from a deep exchange between the Eastern and Western heritage."
We are living in a new missionary age. Whether in the West, where the memory of Christian influence fades under increasing persecution inflicted by rabid secularism and godless modernism, or in the East, which bleeds under the overt persecution from Jihadists and despots, the challenge we face is the same. We are called to prophetically bear witness to the Truth as fully revealed in Jesus Christ. We are called to "bear one anothers burdens and fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal. 6:2) As we evaluate the various conflicts in the Middle East it is vitally important to be informed by news sources which paint the full picture of what is happening. Catholic Online is committed to being one of those sources.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Syria, Syrian, Wadi al Nasara, Homs, Valley of the Christians, Bashar al-Assad, Syrian Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Maronite, Christian persecution, Jihadis, anti-Catholic, Deacon Keith Fournier
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