Pot No. 575/1/16
Circ No. 16.21
Year of Mercy
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Every generation can be defined by how we respond to the pressing issues of our day. Here at home we face challenges against traditional marriage and the sacred character of life from the moment of conception to natural death. Abroad, (and unfortunately more and more here at home) we face a disregard for the basic human right of religious freedom, not just to worship in one’s house of prayer, but to live one’s faith without compromise. This right is violated without any consequences in much of the Middle East, where in some places to be a Christian is to be either a second class citizen, or to have to face criminal gangs that hide behind religion to kidnap, rape, murder and punish any and all who disagree, and do so in the name of the Most Merciful One.
ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabab, Al Qaeda and other genocidal forces are clear in their hatred for the faith of others and take this hatred into the entire world, much like a cancer that spreads through a body. This is not Muslims against Christians. It is, and must always be seen as, Muslim and Christian standing together against criminal gangs, and against disregard for religious freedom.
Just as it is incumbent upon us to clearly and vigorously defend marriage, life in the womb, and at other vulnerable times, (assisted suicide), so too we must defend those who live each day under oppression simply because of their faith.
Denying religious freedom is not unique to the Middle East; unfortunately it is wide spread throughout the world. Nonetheless, it takes a unique form in the Middle East either in the form of direct government violation of the rights of any who do not profess the approved religion of the state, or in other places by non-state actors such as ISIS and others.
In order to stand in solidarity with those so poorly treated we must better coordinate our efforts to advocate, support, and deepen our ecumenical efforts here in the United States, so as to support our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who desire only to continue to witness to Christ in the land they love.
We thank God for the efforts of the Knights of Columbus (KoC), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), In Defense of Christians (IDC), Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), as well as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), specifically the Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs and the office of International Committee on Justice and Peace who work so diligently to these ends. May God bless all our efforts.
May we witness to a firm and unwavering defense and respect for life, marriage and religious freedom, and answer the call of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East and elsewhere, who are suffering, persecuted, and/or denied their right to dignity and freedom simply because of their faith.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Gregory John Mansour