Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا abouna.org

Published on Sunday, 10 April 2022

"Do we run the risk of finding a Middle East without a Christian presence?"

By Munir Bayouk/ en.abouna.org :

Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches Cardinal Leonardo Sandri has argued that the money to be collected on Good Friday 2022 is essential to helping devastated countries in the Holy Land.

 

He said, "In recent years, the situation in the countries, where the Holy Land collection will be sent, has been devastating. And I am not only referring to the pandemic."

 

Warning that the escalating problems make getting aid to these pilgrimage sites and nearby Christian communities very difficult, he warned that "we run the risk of finding ourselves with a Middle East without a Christian presence."

 

Cardinal Sandri has set off alarm bells regarding the situation of the Christian communities in the Holy Land. An overview of the situation in the Christian communities in the Middle East indicates that their situation is deteriorating rapidly. With the people's economies largely counting on tourism, the Corona pandemic led to a decrease in pilgrims and created financial difficulties relevant to maintaining several historical and religious pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land, which consequently had an adverse effect on the livelihood of Christians.

 

He said, “The gesture of offering, even a small one, but by everyone, like the widow’s mite, allows our brothers and sisters to continue to live, to hope, and to offer a living witness to the Word made flesh in places and on the streets that saw His presence.”

 

What further aggravates the economic situation is that even as pandemic restrictions were very limited, the situation in the Middle East has not gotten any better due to frequent instability in these countries as well as due to the global state of confusion caused by the recent conflagration in Europe, namely between Russia and Ukraine.

 

With the prevailing state of instability and economic crises in the Middle East, Christians have been the first people to leave based on the fact that they are the most vulnerable minority, thus they are often forced to pack their bags when problems arise and leave for good. 

 

The Vatican has earlier encouraged Catholics across the globe to donate to the annual Collection “Pro Terra Sancta” as a way to invest in the Church’s future in the Middle East, while connecting everyone to the Holy Land. This is due to the fact that the Eastern Christians of the East are the root of Christianity and if we lose our roots, how can we be, a tree that grows and bears fruits of love, charity and sharing?”

 

Migration of Christians from the Middle East is quite saddening since their invaluable contribution to Holy Land has gone unnoticed.  They have been making wide-ranging contributions to building civil society, new start-ups, excellence in education and in health and other humanitarian sectors. Their absence will create a vacuum that that never be replaced which users the region into a state of bleakness. The roles they play are globally and diplomatically significant because of its position at the heart of the region, affecting the economic, social and civic value for the region.

 

It is important in this regard to mention a statement made  by Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans to Arabic-language newspaper "Al-Arabi Al-Jadid" in which he decried the prevailing situation of the Christian Iraqis and regretted the fact that the number of Christians in Iraq noting that as discrimination is being practised against them, which includes confiscation of their properties, this made the educated Christians leave the country for good, while the poor families were left behind.

 

The alarm bells are being set off whereby immediate actions are urgently needed to deal with the suffering of Christians which has been so long, restore their harmed dignity in their mother homeland, and ensure them concrete steps in all walks of life that ensure them a bright and promising future in their mother homeland.

 

It is undeniable that the Catholic Church has been playing a key and invaluable role in preserving the Christian presence in the Holy Land by undertaking several means and projects that enroot their constructive and civilized role in the region, yet much work is still needed from other civic and governmental parties in this regard so as to preserve the beauty of mosaic diversity that has been beautifying the region over the years.

 

Lord Jesus of mercy and compassion,
of grace and reconciliation, pour your power upon the Middle East:
Let hatred be turned into love, fear to trust, despair to hope,
so that violent encounters may be replaced by loving embraces,
and peace and justice could be experienced by all.