The Four Challenges of Eastern Christians

The Four Challenges of Eastern Christians

1. The Challenge of History
The Christians of the East bear the burden of the Christological disputes of the first four Ecumenical Councils:

• Nicea in 325 A.D.
• Constantinople in 381 A.D.
• Ephesus in 431 A.D.
• Chalcedon in 451 A.D.

These councils defined and transformed Christian doctrine.

The thirteen churches of the East possess a rich heritage yet in the 7th century a competing and divided Eastern Christianity could not cope with Islam.

In the 12th and 13th century these Eastern Christians allied themselves to the Crusaders who came to liberate Jerusalem. After the defeat of the Crusaders, the Muslims continued to stay suspicious of their fellow Christians who were still considered allies of ‘enemy’.

These churches suffered a severe persecution during the 14th and the 15th century. The collective memory of Christians and Muslims do not forget these injuries.

How can you forget a damning past and purify a collective memory? Could the request for forgiveness turn the page on these dark spots?

2. Demographic Challenge
Now a minority Eastern Christians in a world infiltrated by Muslims are in decline: declining birthrate, and sectarian laws requiring non-Muslim partners to convert to Islam in mixed marriages in all Arab countries except Lebanon. A marriage partner can become a Muslim but they cannot become a Christian.
Added to this are higher emigration numbers among Christians. This accelerated population decline weakens parishes, families and the social and political weight of Christians in Eastern societies. Because of the isolation and marginalization a minority endures many live in society with a low public profile.
How does this heroic minority survive? The model of the primitive Church could be a good guide.

3. Challenge of Evangelization
Catholic schools are nationalized; there is no longer access to the education of our children, so does a generation ignore its faith? How do we fill this gap? We fill it with parish catechism which is only an effective solution for 5% of the resettled school children. This is a precarious and costly solution. Transportation is expensive so student attendance is irregular. The children need to be picked up at their homes. A plan designed to hold biblical evenings in families was scheduled to begin before the war. Now many of the trained catechists are missing and some have left the country.

With the rise of fanaticism, fundamentalism and intolerance evangelism becomes too risky. The Gospel continues to attract a lot of people but it is not possible to baptize them. Freedom of religion without freedom of conscience is not enough. To co?exist with Islam is our difficult and unavoidable choice. Faced with this challenge the hidden life of Jesus seems to be a good way.

4. Economic Challenge
The scattered Christian minority has long lost the financial means to support their parishes and their pastors. These Eastern Churches are not viable without contributions from Western Churches and the charitable solidarity movements. Without their support 80% of the places of worship would be closed. This fraternal generosity during the global crisis may not continue. The future is hard to imagine.

A poor Church closer to the gospel is the best testimony.

The Challenge of Challenges
In the face of this long and profound Calvary, some have changed religion, others have chosen to leave. The little flock that remains look upon Mary at the foot of the cross and meditate on these words of Christ: “Whoever does not bear my cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” Luke 14:27.

Damascus April 25, 2016.
+ Samir NASSAR
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus

Posted in Religious Education

Conference Invitation: Stopping Genocide & Other Atrocities Conference- New York – April 28-30, 2016

Conference Invitation: Stopping Genocide & Other Atrocities Conference- New York – April 28-30, 2016

Defending religious freedom and other human rights: 

Stopping mass atrocities against Christians and other believers

New York
April 28 – 30, 2016

Click Here to Download invitation and program

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Muslim Newscaster Shares her Devotion to Saint Sharbel

A Muslim Newscaster shares her devotion to Saint Sharbel and urges peace.  http://aleteia.org/2016/04/20/muslim-newscaster-shares-her-devotion-to-st-charbel-urges-peace/

Posted in Religious Education

Invitation to a Conference on Human Trafficking on April 7, 2016

Invitation to a Conference on Human Trafficking on April 7, 2016, from 3 to 6 pm at the United Nations Headquarters (First Avenue and 46th Street) Click to download invitation

 

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The Mercy of God

Bishop Gregory Mansour Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, Catechesis on “”The Mercy of God.”” Bishop Mansour also addressed the plight of Christians in the Middle East at a lecture offered as part of the Diocese of Greensburg’s celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy at Saint Joseph Chapel, Bishop Connare Center, Greensburg, PA. Given on: 3/1/2016

http://wftp.waob.org/home/download/639? email=3&token=5523180610ae18bf28c3abbdbb7e588056d7096fc90de

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Eparchial Benefit Dinner

Seventh Annual Benefit Dinner in Manhattan For the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn set for May 3, 2016

As we celebrate 50 years since the arrival of Archbishop Francis M. Zayek we will have our Annual Benefit Dinner early this year. Please mark your calendars and join us on May 3, 2016, at the New York Athletic Club.

Proceeds from the Benefit Dinner will be used to educate Seminarians, support poorer parishes and missions, and assist retired priests.  We look forward to seeing you there! Thank you!

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With Refugees in Egypt

The Maronite Bishop of Egypt, the retired Bishop of Gary and I sharing a lighter moment with Syrian refugees who are being trained by CRS in Cairo, Egypt, on a variety of livelihood skills: one man is an electrical engineer, one a cook, one woman makes perfumes and shampoos, the other caters out of her small crowded apartment. CRS gives them the help they need, including small loans to get started. They wanted us to thank all who give to CRS.

+Gregory Mansour

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Caritas Jordan

Caritas Jordan is a source of great Christian pride.Over 400 full time and 2000 volunteers constitute an army of mercy for Syrian and Iraqi refugees as well as Christian and Muslim poor in Jordan whom they serve without distinction. 000_IMG_0524000_IMG_0502000_IMG_0510

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Caritas Lebanon

At a center in Lebanon designed to protect migrant workers who have suffered from abuse from employers who have not honored their agreement. We heard their stories and assured them of our support. The center, one of many in Lebanon run by Caritas Lebanon and Catholic relief services, is a safe haven for those who have no where to go. Here they are thanking us for our visit.

Lebanon

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Vigilant Servants

It was Tuesday March 26, 2013, at 1:0 A.M., when shrapnel killed Deacon Camille on road to the Church. Following his death parents of the priests were eager for me to leave, to leave Damascus. They were afraid for safety of their children. I proposed that the priests leave if they wanted to. The diocese does not have the right to keep them here under these conditions. They have all answered: “YOU STAY, WE STAY”

Providence has since protected us. Our deacon martyr had the role of distributing bread to the poor. The priests took over and each of them has become a social worker, good Samaritans who watch over the charitable activities in their parish. This is necessitated by the intense fighting in Syria and the waves of refugees that unfortunately arrive each day.

2015 was quite hard for the diocese: Two shells caused significant damage in the historic cathedral , the roof of the library caught fire and collapsed, the old sanitary facilities, built in 1958, succumb to the fire, and the room of Father Jean caught fire. The heavy restoration work was carried out by priests during my absence (health problems).They gave up days of rest in order to complete the work.

In a gesture of rebellion against death and destruction, these courageous priests launched the construction of three chapels in the modest suburban districts, mobilizing the faithful around these three projects which are a sign of hope and faith in the future of the Church in Syria. This vitality highlights their pastoral proximity during this year of mercy and great suffering.

The first chapel, dedicated to the Martyrs of Damascus (1860), was inaugurated on January 8, 2016. Two other chapels will follow. This first one is a step on the path of reconstruction. Only the Lord gives peace. The Church and our Good Shepherd are proud of these priests, vigilant servants who cling to their mission under the bombs. They are the strength and future pledge of a martyrized Christianity that refuses to die.

From Damascus, February ,41 .2061
+Samir Nassar Maronite Archbishop of Damascus

Posted in Religious Education