Divers - 4 February 2016

en - Pray for us

Christian Muslim relations in the Middle East today.

May God protect our people. I ask you to pray for us’ (Amel Nona, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul.) In 2014 he was saying `Please try to understand us, your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here’. These are the words of a desperate man. `This is where God weeps. The very survival of Christians living in the cradle of our faith is at stake’ (Younan of Antioch, head of the Syriac Catholic Church)There is kidnap and rape, priests and bishops are targeted and killed, churches are destroyed, mass murder and torture, intimidation, war, blood and death. Christians are` persecuted and forgotten. People have lost everything. Children have witnessed terrible things’ (Archbishop Basha Ward, Patriarch of Babylon) So many Christians have fled Iraq, Syria to linger in refugee camps in Lebanon or Jordan. And so it goes on. Syria is on the midst of a terrible civil war. Since the Western intervention in 2003 the situation in Iraq has deteriorated for everybody ; but the coming of Islamic State in 2014 has made the situation of Christians more terrible. Younan is asking Pope Francis to call a world summit to address the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. There are calls for the United Nations Convention on genocide to be invoked. The region is being emptied of its ancient Christian communities.
There is great diversity in Islam. Muslims too are` beaten and left by the roadside’. As the Melkite Patriarch points out there is a long tradition of religious tolerance over the centuries especially in Syria : Abdullah 11 of Jordan talks of the Arab Christians as `an essential part of building our culture and civilization and defending Islam’. Now the large scale migration is threatening to destroy the centuries old religious and ethnic diversity in the area. Maybe the underdevelopment of the region, the struggle against colonialism, conflict over resources, oil, land and political influence, has fuelled the situation as well as the militant atheism which uses religion for its own terrible ends, as does the fundamentalist and unreformed Islam of Isis. In Syria both Christians and Muslims are natives, Isis are the ones seen as the foreigners. `There is a mutual joy Christians and Muslims can have in each other’ wrote Timothy Radcliffe OP. after a recent visit to the area. He noted the Muslims that had helped to rebuild the church that had been destroyed in Qara. They go to the nearby Carmelite monastery for laundry and soap -making together. He reminded us that both Christians and Muslims are now going to the small room which had belonged to Fr Frans Van der Lugt S.J., who for years had worked with humanity and courage for both communities in Homs ; he remained in the besieged city alongside all who could not flee and was finally murdered in April 2014. They go to pray.
There is still `salt and light’. As the situation in the Middle East has worsened Christians have been active in working for reconciliation, Mussalaha in Arabic, which has grown out of the ashes and ruins of struggle. Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is working hard to mitigate the situation and work preventatively to protect all minorities. KAICIID dialogue centre met in August 2015 bringing together Christians and Muslim leaders countering `unprecedented violence displacing millions from their homes and killing hundreds of thousands.’
Pope Francis has said `God’s mercy can bring about a solution to the most intractable of problems’ .The Door of Mercy has been opened by the head of the Chaldean church this Christmas in a tent which functions as a chapel for the 1,000 Christians in Baghdad. ` I ask you to pray for us’. We need to pray very hard and be in solidarity with these crucified peoples – sometimes literally.

Sr Jessica