As we approach Corpus Christi Sunday may we recognize that the presence of Christ powerfully comforts those Syrian and Iraqi refugees who have lost everything; however they have the one gift no one can take away: their faith in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. May our profession of faith this Sunday be in solidarity with them at the altar.
As the debate about Iraqi and Syrian immigration continues may our conscience not be deadened and our hearts hardened to the plight of persecuted minorities. This short film enlivens my conscience to to stand in wonder at their courage in face of such persecution.
The winter is setting in and so life will be even more difficult for those in refugee camps during this Christmas season. Consider a Christmas gift to assist those in need either through Juliana Taimoorazy’s outreach or the Knights of Columbus. The following video also demonstrates the courage of these Iraqis and Syrians who hold fast to their faith.
Servais Pinckaers, OP, offers a reflection on persecution in his book The Pursuit of Happiness – God’s Way, Living the Beatitudes.
“Saint Thomas Aquinas connects martyrdom with the virtue of fortitude or courage. According to the teaching of the philosophers of his time the proper and characteristic act of courage was confrontation with death especially in war. From a theological perspective martyrdom seen as the acceptance of death for the sake of Christ would be the specific act of Christian courage. Its motivation, faith and love, distinguishes Christian martyrdom from merely human courage in the face of death. The witness of martyrdom is totally centered in the person of Christ. Many martyrs have expressed the belief it that was Christ himself who suffered and bore witness in them, who relived his passion with them. Christian courage certainly includes whatever human courage we may possess; but surpasses it, while gathering to itself, through the power of grace, even our weaknesses and fears in the face of death. The martyrs were not heroes. They were above all believers who bore witness to love.”
The ongoing debate about Syrian and Iraqi refugees continues to escalate; however even if the US decided to open its doors to these refugees it would not have any effect in relieving the suffering of persecuted minorities.
The Obama administration simply echoes the Bush administration’s attitude to the Christians.
“It has been one year since Islamic State began its conquest of a third of Iraq and its destruction of that country’s ancient Christian civilization…. And there’s no reason to think that America would shape its defense policy to specifically help Iraqi Christians. This was true even during the Bush administration. When I asked about a safe haven for Christians in 2007, when mounting kidnappings and terrorism were directed against the Christians of Baghdad’s Dora neighborhood, the State Department’s coordinator for Iraq policy told me that it is “against U.S. policy to further sectarianism.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirmed that this was “the policy,” arguing that reducing violence would help all Iraqis, even though the U.S. helped empower, in turn, Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds.” http://www.nationalreview.com/article/419582/iraqs-christians-need-sanctuary-and-west-should-provide-it-nina-shea
Since the Civil War erupted in Syria in 2011 only 3% of the 2184 Syrian refugees resettled in the United States have been persecuted religious minorities, therefore Christians and all people of good will who wish to respond to this crisis can respond to the invitation of such organizations as the Iraqi Christian Relief Council.
We can share in their mission of assisting persecuted religious minorities and can encourage others to relieve human suffering.
See: Embracing the Cross – Christians in the Middle East
From Aleteia, a mortar shell hits a Catholic church in Aleppo, Syria, during Communion:
‘Calling the war in Syria, and its resultant refugee crisis “a tsunami that has hit the country” a grieved and frustrated-sounding Archbishop Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East for the Syriac Catholic Church, had some hard words for the West during a pastoral visit to Ottawa, Canada.’ Read the rest from the Syrian patriarch at Aleteia, and do read the linked article from Ottawa (in the Vancouver archdiocesan newspaper), where the archbishop was visiting.
Most Reverend James D. Conley, bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, writes for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, about what an ancient feast this is, and about Mary’s “loyal and ancient followers” in Iraq and Syria.
St. John Damascene, a Syriac deacon from Damascus and Doctor of the Church who preached at the beginning of the 8th century, wrote a sermon to the Blessed Mother, saying to her, “You, O Mother, were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.”
From the beginning of Christian history, the Christians of the Middle East have been loyal sons and daughters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today, the heirs of that great tradition, the Christians of Iraq and Syria in particular, are facing unprecedented persecution… “