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Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“Weak words are not enough.” So began the Congressional Testimony of Genocide expert, Dr. Gregory Stanton. Along with Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus, Bishop Frank Kalabat of the Chaldean Church, and others, he came to express grave concern for religious minorities, among them Yezidis, Christians and others, at the hands of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).
Pope Francis has also expressed clearly: “Today, we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus. In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end” (Speech in Bolivia, July 9, 2015).
Dr. Stanton pointed out that what is happening now is not “ethnic cleansing,” nor is it just “crimes against humanity.” These words were used in our most recent past, and were not strong enough to stop the genocide in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo or Darfour. In fact, genocide is a crime on a massive scale compared to other crimes against humanity and implies an intention to completely exterminate the chosen group.
With impunity, ISIS has swept through Syria and Iraq and taken defenseless Christian villages and those of other minorities. In fact, they have taken aim at minorities, as well as their own co-religionists, in fact, anyone who thinks differently from them. While we understand that the crimes of ISIS and other extremists represent a crisis within the larger political crisis, Dr. Stanton and others came to urge the United States Congress to formally declare the systematic destruction of these ancient communities, and those who stand with them, genocide.
Article II of the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment for the Crime of Genocide defines it as:
Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(C) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Since the beginning of their swift and destructive rise, ISIS has committed all of these, in whole and in part, through a calculated and deliberate system of atrocity. Furthermore, their intent can be clearly seen as outlined in their propaganda, which calls for the eradication or subjugation of those who do not conform to their ideology.
Unlike previous such instances in modern history, there has been no attempt by ISIS to conceal their actions. On the contrary, the group shamelessly broadcasts decapitations, crucifixions, forced drownings, a theological rationalization for rape, and other horrors, with the sole purpose of spreading its message of destruction and recruiting more agents to the ranks of its hellish crimes.
Two months ago, H. Con. Res. 75 was introduced to the United States Congress by Representatives Fortenberry (R-NE) and Eshoo (D-CA) of the Congressional Caucus for Religious Minorities in the Middle East to officially declare these crimes genocide. Doing so would better enable the world community to halt the spread of these crimes. This is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a matter of vital moral importance for the United States, the international community, and for the overall protection and advancement of religious freedom around the world. Perhaps equally important, such a declaration will give a strong voice to the long-suffering victims, whose voices are oftentimes not heard at all. As Pope Francis said it clearly: “We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for 2000 years” (Speech in Turkey, November 30, 2014).
What Can We Do?
1: Request President Obama and all government officials to publicly acknowledge and denounce the actions of ISIS as
genocide. Support the effort of In Defense of Christians, a non-partisan and ecumenical non-profit, created to advocate for political action.
2: Help organize fundraisers or make donations to Caritas Lebanon, Catholic Relief Services and/or other Catholic humanitarian efforts.
3: Pray, advocate for, and invite fellow Christians, and all other people of good will, to pray for an end to the crimes and hatred of ISIS and other such groups.
“Weak words are not enough.” What is needed is correct political, humanitarian and spiritual action. May God give us the grace this new year to be his voice, to be the voice of the oppressed, and to cry out for love and mercy in our tired and troubled world. ❒
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Gregory John Mansour
Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn
+Elias Abdallah Zaidan
Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles
Weak Words Are Not Enough (pdf)
Weak Words Are Not Enough
Statement of Professor Gregory H. Stanton
President, Genocide Watch
Research Professor, George Mason University
Here is Pope Francis in his own words on the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy. It doesn’t get better than this
The Pope explains the motives and expectations of the Jubilee of Mercy
Vatican City, 2 December 2015 (VIS) – The Italian magazine “Credere” today published an interview with Pope Francis ahead of the imminent opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, in which the Holy Father explains the motives and expectations of this convocation. The following are extensive extracts from the interview:
“The theme of mercy has been strongly accentuated in the life of the Church, starting with Pope Paul VI. John Paul II underlined it firmly with Dives in Misericordia, the canonisation of St. Faustina and the institution of the feast of Divine Mercy on the Octave of Easter. In line with this, I felt that it was as if it was the Lord’s wish to show His mercy to humanity. It was not something that came to my mind, but rather the relatively recent renewal of a tradition that has however always existed. … It is obvious that today’s world is in need of mercy and compassion, or rather of the capacity for empathy. We are accustomed to bad news, cruel news and the worst atrocities that offend the name and the life of God. The world needs to discover that God is the Father, that there is mercy, that cruelty is not the way, that condemnation is not the way, because it is the Church herself who at times takes a hard line, and falls into the temptation to follow a hard line and to underline moral rules only; many people are excluded. The image of the Church as a field hospital after a battle comes to mind here: it is the truth, so many people are injured and destroyed! … I believe that this is the time for mercy. We are all sinners, all of us carry inner burdens. I felt that Jesus wanted to open the door to His heart, that the Father wants to show us his innate mercy, and for this reason he sends us the Spirit. … It is the year of reconciliation. On the one hand we see the weapons trade … the murder of innocent people in the cruellest ways possible, the exploitation of people, of children. There is currently a form of sacrilege against humanity, because man is sacred, he is the image of the living God. And the Father says, ‘stop and come to me’”.
In response to the second question on the importance of divine mercy in the life of Pope Francis, who has repeatedly affirmed his awareness of being a sinner, he says:
“I am a sinner … I am sure of this. I am a sinner whom the Lord looked upon with mercy. I am, as I said to detainees in Bolivia, a forgiven man. … I still make mistakes and commit sins, and I confess every fifteen or twenty days. And if I confess it is because I need to feel that God’s mercy is still upon me”. Francis recalled that he felt this sensation in a particular way on 21 September 1953, when he felt the need to enter a church and confess to a priest he did not know, and from then his life was changed; he decided to become a priest and his confessor, who was suffering from leukaemia, accompanied him for a year. “He died the following year”, said the Pope. “After the funeral I cried bitterly, I felt totally lost, as if with the fear that God had abandoned me. This was the moment in which I came across God’s mercy, and it is closely linked to my episcopal motto: 21 September is the feast day of St. Matthew, and the Venerable Bede, when speaking of the conversion of St. Matthew, says that Jesus looked at him ‘miserando atque eligendo’. … The literal translation would be ‘pitying and choosing’”.
“Can the Jubilee of Mercy be an opportunity to rediscover God’s ‘maternity’? Is there an almost ‘feminine’ aspect of the Church that must be valued?” is the third question.
“Yes”, the Holy Father replies. “God Himself affirms this when He says in the Book of Isaiah that a mother could perhaps forget her child, even a mother can forget, but ‘I will never forsake you’. Here we see the maternal dimension of God. Not everyone understands when we speak about God’s maternity, it is not part of ‘popular’ language – in the good sense of the word – and may seem rather elitist; for this reason I prefer to speak about the tenderness, typical of a mother, God’s tenderness that comes from his innate paternity. God is both father and mother”.
In response to a question on whether the discovery of a more merciful and emotional God, Who is moved to tenderness for mankind, should lead to a change of attitude towards others, Francis says: “Discovering this leads us to have a more tolerant, more patient, more tender attitude. In 1994 during the Synod, in a group meeting, I said that it was necessary to begin a revolution of tenderness … and I continue to say that today the revolution is that of tenderness, because justice derives from this. … The revolution of tenderness is what we must cultivate today as the fruit of this year of mercy: God’s tenderness towards each one of us. Each one of us must say, ‘I am a wretch, but God loves me as I am; so, I must love others in the same way’”.
The journalist recalls St. John XXIII’s famous “Sermon to the moon”, in which greeting the faithful one night, he told them to give a caress to their children. “This image became an image of the Church’s tenderness. In what way does the theme of mercy help our Christian communities to convert and renew themselves?”
“When I see the sick, the elderly, the caress comes to me spontaneously. … The caress is a gesture that can be interpreted ambiguously, but it the first gesture that a mother and father offer a newborn child, this gesture that says ‘I love you, I wish well to you’”.
Finally, “ is there a gesture you intend to make during the Jubilee to show God’s mercy?”
“There will be many gestures, but one Friday each month I will make a different gesture”, the Holy Father concludes.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Here is my letter to president Obama and select senators and congressmen. I hope everyone will send similar letters. (obama
It is called the “Teaching” Gospel because Matthew arranged the words of Jesus in an orderly manner. For all who love the Word of God, this Gospel is for you! But beware, it also has some very difficult advice on ISIS.
In chapters 5 through 7 the most challenging of our Lord’s teaching shines through: the Beatitudes; the teaching on marriage; and the teaching against revenge. It is here that we are close to the very words of Jesus himself, unfiltered and powerful. Saving his other teachings on the sanctity of marriage, and the imperative of the Beatitudes to go beyond the letter of the law, let us take up our Lord’s teaching on retaliation, which is a clear window into his very personal response to the hatred and evil of his day, which he himself endured. This teaching against retaliation is sincere, because he lived it himself, and he asked all who desire to follow him, to live it as well.
The words and stories that Jesus uses to describe his teaching are very much his own. “You have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but what I say is offer no resistance.” He did not mean to be passive in front of evil; in fact, he himself was not passive. Instead he meant very clearly that we not fight evil with evil. Jesus asks us to follow him, to be like him, to love like him, even our enemies, and to do well even to those who do evil. He invites us to resist like he did; not in the usual way, but rather in a creative way; and for this he gave us three very unique examples.
We know his examples as: “turn the other check,” “go the extra mile,” and “give the shirt on your back.” These expressions are based on popular parlance, because this is how we have watered down his teaching. But what Jesus actually said is very different!
He did not say “turn the other cheek;” he said, “if someone strikes you on the right cheek offer him the left.” A strike on the right cheek could only be done as a back-handed slap, sending a clear signal that the one slapping is superior, and the one receiving the slap is inferior. For Jesus this was not acceptable, he asked us to be defiant in the face of such cruelty, and not accept an inferior status, but rather demand that the oppressor strike us again, but this time as an equal! Let us not forget how Jesus stood before Pontius Pilot, as an equal, even though the Roman leader claimed to have “power” over him.
Likewise, Jesus did not say “go the extra mile,” as if to mean we must “give more of ourselves.” Rather, our Lord knew all too well the unjust law that allowed Roman soldiers to force him and his Jewish countrymen to carry their equipment, but not for more than one mile. Jesus thus asked his countrymen to go the “extra mile”, so as to buy back their internal freedom from their oppressor, to embarrass the oppressor, albeit politely, and to go one more mile, but this time freely, so as to honor one’s innate dignity.
Lastly, Jesus did not say “give the shirt off your back,” as if this is some generous action for someone in need. Rather he said, “if someone sues for your cloak, offer him your shirt as well.” Thus, instead of being a victim of another’s unjust suit, turn and give him your shirt as well. In this way, you show him a fearless love, with the hope that it will perhaps shame him, and awaken him to justice.
By means of these three examples our Lord is clear: no retaliation of evil for evil, but at the same time, be defiant in the face of oppression, have a non-violent attitude, refuse to accept unjust treatment, and be creative in how to respond to injustice!
How appropriate is our Lord’s imperatives today in face of hate groups such as ISIS and others!
I propose three strong Christian responses to ISIS and other such criminal groups:
- Prosecute for genocide. This means that we work to influence the United States Government, the United Nations, and individual persons to bring the crimes of ISIS for genocide to the International Court as well as individual courts of law wherever possible. ISIS and other such groups give ample information on their websites as to who is in charge. Let’s begin prosecuting them for their crimes.
- Work to resist the advance of ISIS, create a safety zone for innocent victims of their genocide, help them return to their homes, and defend them as they defend themselves.
- Continue our case against ISIS in the courts of public opinion with media and legislative action to expose their crimes against humanity.
For more info please see In Defense of Christian website www.idcconvention.org and the Wilberforce Initiative website www.21wilberforce.org
By peering into the window of Jesus’ teaching on retaliation we can see the splendor of truth and creative resistance as ways to follow him. We hear our Lord’s command to never return evil for evil, but this does not mean that we have to sit idly by and accept the evil we encounter. Rather we actively protect ourselves and innocent victims with a loving defiance so as to face every injustice squarely.
This very personal glimpse into the heart and mind of our Lord Jesus Christ inspires us to follow him ever more closely, even to the Cross!
May we who are nicknamed by ISIS as the “people of the Cross,” be truly who we are, and live by that Cross in a defiant love that is as much as possible like that of our Savior and our Lord!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+ Gregory John Mansour
Feast of the Holy Cross 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ
The following letter from retired Congressman Frank Wolf says it all. I hope you will do all in your power to write your public officials and raise awareness of this effort to call it what it is: genocide. (Letterofcongressmanwolf
Pope Francis today [September 1, 2015] conceded to priests during the upcoming Holy Year the disposition to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and seek forgiveness for it.
He also expressed his hope that solutions may soon be found to recover full communion with the Fraternity of St Pius X.
In an articulated letter addressed to the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the Pope focused on a series of points which he said “require attention to enable the celebration” of the upcoming Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
Highlighting the fact that the Holy Year must be a true moment of encounter and closeness to the Lord for all believers, Pope Francis addressed the question of Jubilee Indulgences which – he said – represent a genuine experience of God’s mercy.
And to the traditional list of all the ways one may obtain an Indulgence by crossing a Holy Door or a Door of Mercy, the Pope added a couple of dispositions and requests pointing out that in every occasion, the solemn moment must be linked, first and foremost, to the profession of faith, deep repentance, the celebration of the Eucharist and a reflection on mercy.
In the letter Pope Francis specifically turns his attention to women who have resorted to abortion and “bear the scar of this agonizing and painful decision” saying the forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented. “For this reason – he writes – I have decided to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.”
Pointing out that a Jubilee Year has often constituted an opportunity for a great amnesty, the Pope includes prisoners in his list of believers seeking pardon, whom he says, may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the jails.
And holding out the possibility of obtaining an Indulgence to the sick, the elderly, the homebound and even the deceased, the Pope never neglects to point out that the experience of mercy must be visible in works of faith, hope and charity.
Finally, turning to those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests of the Fraternity of St. Pius X, Pope Francis said they too will validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins, trusting that in the near future full communion will be recovered with Rome.
Please find below the full text of the Pope’s letter:
To My Venerable Brother
Archbishop Rino Fisichella President of the Pontifical Council
for the Promotion of the New Evangelization
With the approach of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy I would like to focus on several points which I believe require attention to enable the celebration of the Holy Year to be for all believers a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God. It is indeed my wish that the Jubilee be a living experience of the closeness of the Father, whose tenderness is almost tangible, so that the faith of every believer may be strengthened and thus testimony to it be ever more effective.
My thought first of all goes to all the faithful who, whether in individual Dioceses or as pilgrims to Rome, will experience the grace of the Jubilee. I wish that the Jubilee Indulgence may reach each one as a genuine experience of God’s mercy, which comes to meet each person in the Face of the Father who welcomes and forgives, forgetting completely the sin committed. To experience and obtain the Indulgence, the faithful are called to make a brief pilgrimage to the Holy Door, open in every Cathedral or in the churches designated by the Diocesan Bishop, and in the four Papal Basilicas in Rome, as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion. Likewise, I dispose that the Indulgence may be obtained in the Shrines in which the Door of Mercy is open and in the churches which traditionally are identified as Jubilee Churches. It is important that this moment be linked, first and foremost, to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy. It will be necessary to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world.
Additionally, I am thinking of those for whom, for various reasons, it will be impossible to enter the Holy Door, particularly the sick and people who are elderly and alone, often confined to the home. For them it will be of great help to live their sickness and suffering as an experience of closeness to the Lord who in the mystery of his Passion, death and Resurrection indicates the royal road which gives meaning to pain and loneliness. Living with faith and joyful hope this moment of trial, receiving communion or attending Holy Mass and community prayer, even through the various means of communication, will be for them the means of obtaining the Jubilee Indulgence. My thoughts also turn to those incarcerated, whose freedom is limited. The Jubilee Year has always constituted an opportunity for great amnesty, which is intended to include the many people who, despite deserving punishment, have become conscious of the injustice they worked and sincerely wish to re-enter society and make their honest contribution to it. May they all be touched in a tangible way by the mercy of the Father who wants to be close to those who have the greatest need of his forgiveness. They may obtain the Indulgence in the chapels of the prisons. May the gesture of directing their thought and prayer to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.
I have asked the Church in this Jubilee Year to rediscover the richness encompassed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The experience of mercy, indeed, becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us. Each time that one of the faithful personally performs one or more of these actions, he or she shall surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence. Hence the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one. The Jubilee Indulgence is thus full, the fruit of the very event which is to be celebrated and experienced with faith, hope and charity.
Furthermore, the Jubilee Indulgence can also be obtained for the deceased. We are bound to them by the witness of faith and charity that they have left us. Thus, as we remember them in the Eucharistic celebration, thus we can, in the great mystery of the Communion of Saints, pray for them, that the merciful Face of the Father free them of every remnant of fault and strongly embrace them in the unending beatitude.
One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life. A widespread and insensitive mentality has led to the loss of the proper personal and social sensitivity to welcome new life. The tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness, as if not realizing the extreme harm that such an act entails. Many others, on the other hand, although experiencing this moment as a defeat, believe they they have no other option. I think in particular of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision. What has happened is profoundly unjust; yet only understanding the truth of it can enable one not to lose hope. The forgiveness of God cannot be denied to one who has repented, especially when that person approaches the Sacrament of Confession with a sincere heart in order to obtain reconciliation with the Father. For this reason too, I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the Jubilee Year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it. May priests fulfil this great task by expressing words of genuine welcome combined with a reflection that explains the gravity of the sin committed, besides indicating a path of authentic conversion by which to obtain the true and generous forgiveness of the Father who renews all with his presence.
A final consideration concerns those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X. This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one. From various quarters, several Brother Bishops have told me of their good faith and sacramental practice, combined however with an uneasy situation from the pastoral standpoint. I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity. In the meantime, motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.
Trusting in the intercession of the Mother of Mercy, I entrust the preparations for this Extraordinary Jubilee Year to her protection.
From the Vatican, 1 September 2015 (from Vatican Radio)
Part of the war in Syria is to live under indiscriminate bombing, a kind of Russian roulette which is always unpredictable. This Sunday, August 23, 2015, a rain of mortars fell on the neighborhood including two shells on the roof of the church. Since it is constructed with stone vaults it held despite the damage: cracks larger than arches, water tanks and fuel tanks ripped open, air conditioning out of service. The nearby Latin Church and several families in the neighborhood were also affected. Nine people were killed and forty seven innocent and poor were wounded. These are people who have not been able to leave the ,country and escape the fighting. Of those who died, survivors say: “You won’t have to see and live this cruel tragedy without end. You won’t see your children, your friends and your neighbors suffer and die in the blind violence and fanatical killing unable to save them or help them without understanding why.” The survivors bury the dead without having been able to treat the wounded since they lack means and competence. They sink into silent prayer before the relics of martyrs, the seeds of Faith.
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus
Dear Brother Priests, Deacons and Subdeacons, Men and Women Religious, and Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The crisis in Syria and Iraq continues, and our thoughts are ever with our brothers and sisters enduring unimaginable hardships. Thousands have been forced to abandon their native homes, entire communities have been abducted, women and girls sold into sex slavery, boys forced to fight alongside ISIS, many have been martyred for their faith. Churches, schools, and monasteries are closed, occupied and destroyed.
I write to tell you of my experience with the new organization entitled In Defense of Christians (IDC), which seeks to equip American Christians with tools of unity, advocacy, and awareness to respond to this crisis. Their nonpartisan approach is markedly ecumenical, uniting Middle Eastern Christians, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants, to form a coherent and coordinated voice of Christian concern to national and international leaders and the global community.
This September 9-11, IDC will hosts an inaugural National Leadership Convention in Washington DC “Mobilizing America for Christians in the Middle East.” The program includes:
- An “Ecumenical Prayer Service for Christians in the Middle East”
- Political advocacy in Congress
- Press conferences and policy round tables with leading experts to develop needed responses and solutions to this crisis
- A capstone Solidarity Dinner to “Mobilize Americans for Christians in the Middle East” the evening of September 11
- A full program of the events, which can be found at idcconvention.org.
They would also like to invite us to promote the three-day National Leadership Convention among our parishes and communities, so that interested members might be able to attend and be equipped with the tools to mobilize our local communities across ecumenical lines upon return.
Attached to this correspondence is a flyer for the IDC National Leadership Conference (IDCflyer2015) , where further information on programming and registration can be found.
Pope Francis has called us to live in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East, in what he calls an “ecumenism of blood”. We continue to encourage our priests, religious and lay faithful to stand in solidarity with Christians in the Middle East.
|Eparchy of Saint Maron
109 Remsen Street
Brooklyn NY 1201