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Weakened and Impoverished, We Entered the Fourth Week of Displacement
Yet, there is nothing promising at all. The Iraqi government has not done anything to regain the Christian towns back from the IS. Likewise, the Kurdish government, apart from allowing us to enter their province, has not offered any aid, financial or material, leaving us in the streets, and making the church take full responsibility of us all. Thanks to the Church of Iraq in Kurdistan, who opened their halls and centres to provide shelters. Yet, the number of refugees was so large that the Kurdish government had to face the stark reality and open their schools to provide additional shelter for refugees.
We hear a lot about world governments and organizations sending financial aid to Iraq, but the refugee gets the least –we do not know or understand why. People lost almost everything; they cannot even afford to buy milk or formula for their children. What saddens us most is that, only one month ago, these people were the most educated in the country and among those most likely to build a life for themselves and their family, and now they do not have enough money in their pockets to survive the day. Christians became accustomed to investing their money in businesses, shops, fields, buildings…etc, to build their communities. Leaving their towns meant leaving everything they had been working for all their lives. Yet, amidst losing everything, accepting their lost dignity, is the most difficult loss they may experience. Some have found shelter in tents, others in schools, still others in church halls and gardens. They wait to be fed, or given food to cook; elderly are not being taken care of properly; children are living in unhealthy conditions; families have lost their privacy; women are exposed in these places; men have no jobs in a culture where a man is expected to support his families. Refusing to live without dignity, more and more people think of immigrating. Whoever owns a car or gold, sells them to buy a plane ticket out of the country. Needless to say, the buyers in Kurdistan are taking advantage and do not take into consideration the devastation these refugees face.
Christians in Iraq are known for their faithfulness and peaceful way of living among others. They do not believe in violence or in war as a way to solve problems. Now, they feel that they are victims because other religions and political parties are dividing the country on the account of the innocent.
Of course, none of us is a political analyst, but it is obvious that Kurdistan is the only beneficiary: economically, militarily, and provincially, while they were obliged to protect the Nineveh Plain. The Peshmerga pulled out of the plain of Nineveh in no time, without a clear reason, and without warning the civilians; we knew we were living in a war zone, when we trusted that at the very least, in a time of danger, they will warn us but, did not –so how can we trust them now (government and people)?
We still wonder why the world cannot petition the UN to take serious action toward the IS, and save the people from their misery, knowing that the IS is the most dangerous group in the world. Is the world deaf and blind? People are almost convinced that the only way out of this crisis is to immigrate and leave the country, if it is even possible. It is certain, many have reached their breaking point and despair is setting in. Maybe immigrating is the only way to stop living in such a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. People cannot endure this persecution, marginalization, contempt, and rejection anymore. If there is any other way, besides immigration, please let us know. Otherwise, please help people get out of the country, by seeking asylum, according to the UN law.
Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena –Iraq.
His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., spoke out about the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq at the Catholic University Mass of the Holy Spirit on August 28, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kujTZbwOMcc&feature=youtu.be
To The Conscience of the World: Iraq’s Christians, A Double Catastrophe
An Urgent Appeal by Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako
I has become obvious that Iraqi Christians along with other minorities have received a fatal blow at the core of their lives and their existence whether through displacing more than a hundred thousand Christians by force, or looting their possessions, money, and documents, or occupying their houses for just being Christian! I visited the camps of the displaced persons in the provinces of Erbil and Dohok and what I saw and what I heard is beyond any imagination!
Since the 6th of August until now there is not yet an immediate concrete solution for the crisis we are facing. On the other hand the flow of funds, arms and fighters continues to the Islamic State. Despite the fact that we are living an organized campaign of elimination from Iraq, the world conscience is not fully awake to gravity of the situation. Now, the second phase of the calamity has already began, which is the migration of these families to the different parts of the world, thus dissolving the history, heritage, and identity of these people into void.
Displacement and migration have their great impact on us, both on Christians and Muslims. Iraq is losing an irreplaceable component of its society, the Christian one; hence begins the vanishing of a genuine tradition!
The international community, principally the United States and European Union due to their moral and historic responsibility towards Iraq, cannot be indifferent. While acknowledging all that is being done to solve this crisis, it seems that the decisions and actions undertaken until now have made no real change in the course of events and the fate of the these affected people is still at stake, as if these people are not part of the human race!
The same is true with regard to the Muslim community, whose statements about the barbaric acts in the name of their religion practiced against the life, dignity and freedom of Christians were not according to our expectation, knowing that Christians have contributed and fought for this country, living in partnership with their Muslim brothers alongside the Islamic civilization.
Religious fundamentalism is still growing in its power and force, creating tragedies, and making us wonder when the Islamic religious scholars and the Muslim intellectuals will critically examine this dangerous phenomenon and eradicate it by educating a true religious consciousness and spreading a genuine culture of accepting the other as brother and as an equal citizen with full rights.
What has happened is terrible and horrific, therefore, we need an urgent and effective international support from all the people of good will to save the Christians and Yezidis, genuine components of the Iraqi society from extinction, knowing that silence and passivity will encourage ISIS fundamentalists to commit more tragedies! The question is who will be the next
Many of these displaced persons wish to return to their towns and houses in the Nineveh Plain, and hope to see it safe under international protection. But the full safety of this zone cannot be achieved without the cooperation of the International Community along with the joint action of the Central Government and the Regional Government of Kurdistan. These innocent people deserve to live in peace and dignity after the terror afflicted on them by the ISIS and after being looted by their own neighbors.
The Church: Certainly we are proud of the faith of our sons and daughters and their steadfastness and courage in the face of this calamity for the sake of their belief. We invite them to live this crisis in a real communion with all the people around them without any distinction. What we need is not exhausting statements but real communion with others which we experienced during the visit of the delegation of French bishop’s conference, Personal Envoy of Pope Francis and Patriarchs. This crisis is empowering us for a spiritual, moral and material reconstruction of our communities. We do respect the decision of those who wish to migrate, but for those who wish to remain, we underline our long history and deeply rooted heritage in this land. God has his own plan for our presence in this land and invites us to carry the message of love, brotherhood, dignity, and harmonious co-existence.
Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako,
President of the Assembly of the Catholic Bishops in Iraq
Dear Brother Priests,
I join with Chorbishop Dominic Ashkar and his parishioners and invite you to concelebrate a Diving Liturgy for Christians of the Middle East at Our Lady of Lebanon Church, 7164 Alaska Ave NW Washington DC 20012, Thursday September 11, 2014 at 7:30PM.
The Liturgy will be celebrated by His Eminence and Beatitude Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, our Maronite Patriarch, in the presence of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, and Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, Papal Nuncio to the United States, as well as other Catholic and Orthodox Church leaders and faithful.
The Divine Liturgy will be followed by a reception in the Church Hall and Seminary Library. If you plan to attend and concelebrate, please RSVP by email directly to Chrobishop Ashkar: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please let him know how many parishioners, if any, will be with you. Please bring a full set of white vestments with you for concelebration.
In solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer so much, I hope to remain, Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Gregory John Mansour
Mar Behnam (St. Behnam) Syriac Catholic monastery in the Ancient Assyrian town of Nimrod is now occupied by ISIS.(AINA) — Since taking over Mosul on June 10, ISIS has destroyed, occupied, converted to mosques, converted to ISIS headquarters or shuttered all 45 Christian institutions in Mosul.
The following is the complete list of the Christian institutions in Mosul, grouped by denomination.
Syriac Catholic Church:
- Syrian Catholic Diocese – Maidan Neighborhood, Mosul
- The Old Church of the Immaculate – Maidan Neighborhood, Mosul (The church goes back to the eighth century AD)
- The New Church of the Immaculate – Maidan Neighborhood
- Church of Mar (Saint) Toma – Khazraj Neighborhood
- Museum of Mar (Saint) Toma – Khazraj Neighborhood
- Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation – Muhandiseen Neighborhood
- Church of the Virgin of Fatima – Faisaliah Neighborhood
- Our Lady of Deliverance Chapel – Shifaa Neighborhood
- The House of the Young Sisters of Jesus – Ras Al-Kour Neighborhood
- Archbishop’s Palace Chapel – Dawasa Neighborhood
Syriac Orthodox Church:
- Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese – Shurta Neighborhood
- The Antiquarian Church of Saint Ahodeeni – Bab AlJadeed Neighborhood
- Mar (Saint) Toma Church and cemetery, (the old Bishopric) – Khazraj Neighborhood
- Church of The Immaculate (Castle) – Maidan Neighborhood
- Church of The Immaculate – Shifaa Neighborhood
- Mar (Saint) Aprim Church – Shurta Neighborhood
- St. Joseph Church – The New Mosul Neighborhood
Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East:
- Diocese of the Assyrian Church of the East – Noor Neighborhood
- Assyrian Church of the East, Dawasa Neighborhood
- Church of the Virgin Mary (old rite) – Wihda Neighborhood
Chaldean Church of Babylon:
- Chaldean Diocese – Shurta Neighborhood
- Miskinta Church – Mayassa Neighborhood
- The Antiquarian Church of Shimon alSafa – Mayassa Neighborhood
- Church of Mar (Saint) Buthyoon – Shahar AlSouq Neighborhood
- Church of St. Ephrem, Wady AlAin Neighborhood
- Church of St. Paul – Majmooaa AlThaqafiya District
- The Old Church of the Immaculate (with the bombed archdiocese)- Shifaa Neighborhood
- Church of the Holy Spirit – Bakir Neighborhood
- Church of the Virgin Mary – Drakziliya Neighborhood
- Ancient Church of Saint Isaiah and Cemetery – Ras AlKour Neighborhood
- Mother of Aid Church – Dawasa Neighborhood
- The Antiquarian Church of St. George- Khazraj Neighborhood
- St. George Monastery with Cemetery – Arab Neighborhood
- Monastery of AlNasir (Victory) – Arab Neighborhood
- Convent of the Chaldean Nuns – Mayassa Neighborhood
- Monastery of St. Michael – Hawi Church Neighborhood
- The Antiquarian Monastery of St. Elijah – Ghazlany Neighborhood
Armenian Orthodox Church:
- Armenian Church – Maidan Neighborhood
- The New Armenian Church – Wihda Neighborhood
Evangelical Presbyterian Church:
- Evangelical Presbyterian Church – Mayassa Neighborhood
- Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers and Convent of Katrina Siena Nuns – Sa’a Neighborhood
- Convent of the Dominican Sisters, – Mosul AlJadeed Neighborhood
- Convent of the Dominican Sisters (AlKilma Monastery) – Majmooaa AlThaqafiya District
- House of Qasada AlRasouliya (Apostolic Aim) (Institute of St. John the Beloved)
- Christian Cemetery in the Ekab Valley which contains a small chapel.
An Urgent Message of Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako
Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Baghdad
Mosul Christians: Whither?
To all who have a living conscience in Iraq and all the world
To the voice of moderate brother Muslims who have a voice in Iraq and all the world
To all who have a concern that Iraq could remain a country for all His Children
To all leaders of thought and opinion
To all who announce the freedom of the human being
To all protectors of the dignity of human beings and of religion
PEACE AND MERCY FROM GOD!
The control exercised by the Islamist Jehadists upon the city of Mosul, and their proclamation of it as an Islamic State, after several days of calm and expectant watching of events, has now come to reflect negatively upon the Christian population of the city and its environs.
The initial sign was in the kidnapping of the two nuns and 3 orphans who were released after 17 days. At the time, we experienced it as a flash of hope and as a clearing of the sky after the appearance of storm clouds.
Suddenly we have been surprised by the more recent outcomes which are the proclamation of an Islamic state and the announcement calling all Christians and clearly asking them to convert to Islam or to pay the joziah (the tax all non- Muslims must pay while living in the land of Islam) – without specifying the exact amount. The only alternative is to abandon the city and their houses with only the clothes they are wearing, taking nothing else. Moreover, by Islamic law, upon their departure, their houses are no longer their properties but are instantly confiscated as property of the Islamic state.
In recent days, there has been written the letter ‘N’ in Arabic on the front wall of Christian homes, signifying ‘Nazara’ (Christian), and on the front wall of Shiite homes, the letter ‘R’ signifying ‘Rwafidh’ (Protestants or rejecters). We do not know what will happen in future days because in an Islamic state the Al – sharia or Islamic code of law is powerful and has been interpreted to require the issuance of new I.Ds for the population based on religious or sectarian affiliation.
This categorization based upon religion or sect afflicts the Muslims as well and contravenes the regulation of Islamic thought which is expressed in the Quran which says, “You have your religion and I have my religion” and yet another place in Quran states, “There is no compulsion in religion”. This is exactly the contradiction in the life and history of the Islamic world for more than 1400 years and in the co – existence with other different religions and nations in the East and in the West.
With all due respect to belief and dogmas, there has been a fraternal life between Christians and Muslims. How much the Christians have shared here in our East specifically from the beginnings of Islam. They shared every sweet and bitter circumstance of life; Christian and Muslim blood has been mixed as it was shed in the defense of their rights and lands. Together they built a civilization, cities, and a heritage. It is truly unjust now to treat Christians by rejecting them and throwing them away, considering them as nothing.
It is clear that the result of all this discrimination legally enforced will be the very dangerous elimination of the possibility of co – existence between majorities and minorities. It will be very harmful to Muslims themselves both in the near and the distant future.
Should this direction continue to be pursued, Iraq will come face to face with human, civil, and historic catastrophe.
We call with all the force available to us; we call to you fraternally, in a spirit of human brotherhood; we call to you urgently; we call to you impelled by risk and in spite of the risk. We implore in particular our Iraqi brothers asking them to reconsider and reflect upon the strategy they have adopted and demanding that they must respect innocent and weaponless people of all nationalities, religions, and sects.
The Holy Quran has ordered believers to respect the innocent and has never called them to seize the belongings, the possessions, the properties of others by force. The Quran commands refuge for the widow, the orphaned, the poor, and the weaponless and respect “to the seventh neighbor.”
We call Christians in the region to act with reason and prudence and to consider and to plan everything in the best way possible. Let them understand what is planned for this region, to practice solidarity in love, to examine the realities together and so be able together to find the paths to build trust in themselves and in their neighbors. Let them stay close to their own Church and surround it; endure the time of trial and pray until the storm will be over.
† Louis Raphael Sako
Patriarch of Babylon for the Chaldean
17 July 2014
A Tomb of Light
Father Franz VAN DER LUGT (1938 – 2014) was a Dutch Jesuit priest living in Syria since 1972. Fluent in Arabic, he held a doctorate degree in psychology. Father Franz advanced dialogue between Muslims and Christians, especially through youth ministry, retreats, and gatherings. He gave good care, especially for the mentally handicapped. He began an agricultural cooperative for the disabled, advocated for needed childcare, and assisted in the restoration of churches and parish centers in the small rural area.
To demonstrate his confidence in his fellow Muslims, Father Franz refused to leave the old city of Homs, where he was also the only priest to serve dozens of Christians abandoned by their pastors. He was martyred in Homs on April 7, 2014. There was no priest to celebrate his funeral. Father Franz was buried in the courtyard of the convent by a small number of Muslim and Christian refugees who form a community of “cloistered” life, living with scarcity and in fear.
His tomb now attracts a large number of Muslim and Christian visitors. By his life and death, Father Franz shows the way to the future in Syria through a message of brotherhood among men and women. Both in life and in death Abouna Franz is an apostle of love and peace embodying the life of his Master, witnessing the values of justice, truth, and total self-giving.
A Sign In Our Midst – A New Priest Without Parish Ministry
Syria, plunged into violence and suffering, continues to be a fertile ground for vocations, a sign of hope. Numerous youth are responding to the call of the Lord, despite dispersion, exodus, great suffering, and difficult prospects.
Maroun, a deacon from Homs, has been preparing for the priesthood for twelve years. He will be ordained a priest, for a diocese torn by war and violence, on August 15, 2014, at the Maronite Cathedral in Damascus. Maroun will not have a parish or a specific duty, other than the social care of refugees, families and the moral and spiritual support of the youth. His ordination is the future of the Syrian Church and hope in the restoration of peace. This spiritual vitality is encouraging. Maroun’s is a vocation that risks in a Christianity that refuses to die. This new priest is a sign in the midst of a people proud of its martyrs.
I confide in the prayers of Father Franz and in your prayers,
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus
Over 200 American Christian leaders, I am one of them, from a great many traditions and across partisan lines have signed the Pledge of Solidarity and Call to Action on behalf of Suffering Christians in Egypt, Iraq and Syria. In a few days, Congressman Frank Wolf will lenter the Pledge and its list of signers into the Congressional Record.
Pope Francis must be a Maronite at heart, because of his particular love for our Lord in His Paschal Mystery and his desire to live it every day! On New Sunday, Mercy Sunday, the Pope spoke of the wounds of Christ, and how Saint Theresa touched them; how the two new saints; and how we touch them today in those suffering.
This past Holy Week and Easter we realized once again the power and meaning of Christ’s Paschal Mystery, His passion, death and resurrection, which gives meaning to our own life, death, suffering and future hope. Hopefully our liturgy was also transformed into loving action for the good of others. This is what makes for a fruitful Holy Week.
In the Maronite Evening Prayer for Holy Week we have the courage to touch Christ’s wounds as we remember:
O Christ, in recalling your passion we are saddened,
but its memory also fills us with joy.
For you and for us, it is both sorrowful and joyful;
it kills and gives life;
it brings humiliation and glory.
For us it is necessary and there is nothing equal to it.
For you, it is both feared and desired.
Because of your passion may we feel the sadness,
which brings repentance and the joy, which does not forget you.
Thus, all sadness and joy will be for your glory, now and forever.
Walking the streets of Buenos Aires, accompanying the poor, Pope Francis lived this passion and prayed it. Through the writings of Saint Paul, he was reminded: “I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me” (Gal 2:20). He touched the living Christ.
In Eucharistic liturgy we celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection. But as Pope Francis reminds us in dramatic ways, like in the foot washing ritual, we must also give ourselves as a gift and receive Christ, crucified and raised from the dead, as a gift under the veil of bread and wine. The Eucharist celebrates the Paschal Mystery in a most fitting way, and is the most meaningful of all liturgical celebrations because it leads us to deeper union with Christ in His Paschal Mystery and to a deeper communion with others through the Church. But liturgy and life must become one and the same mystery translated into a loving service for those who need it.
During liturgy, especially during Holy Week, the Church uses everything at Her disposal to convey the meaning and power of the events of Christ and His Church. Liturgy incorporates chant, procession, ritual, and material goods, such as water, oil, incense, bread and wine. Liturgy draws the worshiper more deeply into union with the risen Christ. But most of all, liturgy should draw us into loving service for others, as Saint John reminds us in his account of the Last Supper, which poignantly is devoid of the narrative of bread and wine, and is clear about foot washing!
In liturgy and in loving service, time stands still. Events of the past become present again, and we appropriate their power and meaning for our lives today.
In the Maronite Evening Prayer for Fridays in Easter we pray:
O Christ, may we understand the meaning of your resurrection
so that we may not see in it a purely historical event
or only a foundation of our faith,
but a life which we must realize in ourselves every day,
a hope which we must draw each moment from our faith,
so that our souls may become just by your life,
and our hope may be united to your hope,
and in your kingdom we shall glorify you face to face.
Both here and there we shall praise you with a ceaseless love, forever.
After the Ascension of our Lord into heaven, we no longer know him in his earthly presence, as the early disciples knew him, but in a sacramental way, a mystical way, a prayerful way, in a communion of love and service, by touching His wounds today! When we “wash the feet” of those we love and those who need us it is no longer “I who live, but Christ Jesus who is living in me,” and the Paschal Mystery is once again lived in both liturgy and loving service.
May we not be afraid to face his sorrowful passion and death and to touch His wounds in our own lives and in the lives of others. May we also have the courage to understand the meaning of the Resurrection, not only as a historical event, but also as a “life we realize in ourselves every day.” May the Paschal Mystery of Christ inspire us to continue to long for him, in the poor and the needy, as does our Holy Father Pope Francis, and as all who seek the One who is Love and who is not to be found in the Tomb, but is Risen as He promised. The Lord is Risen! Truly Risen!
Bishop Gregory Mansour
Our Church in Damascus celebrated the evening of Palm Sunday liturgy. The arrival at Port on the boat of the Church traveling in time to Lent, arriving at Holy Week, a haven of salvation.
The faithful gather in front of the closed door of the church, lighted lamps in hand as Wise Virgins (Mt.25 1-13) awaiting the Bridegroom. The door of the church is struck three times before it is open to let in the faithful of the Paschal Lamb who will live the sufferings of Holy Week which culminate in the Empty Tomb.
This holy week was introduced by the murder of Father Franz Homs in the fourth year of war and violence.
Shells raining down on our neighborhoods, schools closed, we can not give an account of the victims. We are abandoned to Providence.
This small Syrian people, so kind, generous and patient, become accustom to suffering and die in silence. It is in this spirit that we live Holy Week and Easter holidays, knowing that the Way of the Cross that has marked our lives for three years, accompanies the fourth year … the end of the tunnel is invisible.
At the opening of the door of the Church the congregation implores:
“O Lord, Gate of Mercy, open to those who knock and ask your saving grace, bring us into the light of your kingdom, we are the children of your Church come to our port of welcome, our lamps lit to anchor at your house. ”
Our eyes fixed on the Risen Jesus Christ, haven of peace; we entrust ourselves to Our Lady of Martyrs.
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus
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