Thanksgiving prayer is for Iraqi Christians to have place at table

| November 16, 2010 | 0 Comments

Imad Freiz lights a candle before a special memorial Mass Nov. 5 at Holy Family Church in Ramallah, West Bank, in solidarity for those killed in the recent attack on Iraq’s Syrian Catholic cathedral. CNS photo / Debbie Hill

As Thanksgiving approaches, we are once again reminded of all the blessings we enjoy. One of those blessings is the freedom to worship God without fear. Recent world events, however, remind us that this is a blessing that not every person — particularly not every Christian — enjoys throughout the world.

Many people are still grieving in the wake of a terrorist attack Oct. 31 that killed 58 people and left some 75 wounded at a Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad. It’s not the first time Christians in Iraq have been targeted by militants, who have killed a local bishop, priests and lay people in previous attacks. And it likely won’t be the last.

Following the cathedral incident, Christian leaders met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss security problems at their churches.

Pope Benedict XVI called on the international community to work together to end the “heinous episodes of violence that continue to ravage the people of the Middle East.” And Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, the outgoing president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged the U.S. government to “redouble its efforts to assist Iraqis,” particularly religious minorities.

Such public calls for action are welcome, of course. But will they make a significant difference?

Regional problem

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the retired archbishop of Washington, D.C., noted during the bishops’ recent meeting that, before the current war in Iraq, there were 900,000 Christians in the country. Now there are fewer than 350,000. Many left to look for work, although the ongoing lack of security likely will prompt more to leave. Sadly, those Chris­tians who left with the intention of returning some day are less likely to do so if they have to fear the consequences of going to church and living their faith openly.

While Iraq is in the spotlight, it isn’t the only place where Christians face difficult challenges. Through­out the Middle East, Christians are leaving their home countries be­cause of bad economies, oppressive government policies and terrorism carried out in the name of religion.

Still, there is reason to hope.

At the recent Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, the pope reminded participants: “Peace is possible. Peace is urgent.” But it will require working with national and local governments to promote respect for freedom of religion and conscience. And it will require ongoing dialogue between Christian and Muslim leaders and lay people, who must work together for the common good and reject all violence wrongly committed in the name of God.

Prayerful support

This Thanksgiving, when you attend Mass or an ecumenical prayer service and as you gather around the dinner table, keep the Christians of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East in your prayers.

And consider showing your own thanks for the blessings you’ve received by making a donation to an organization, such as the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, that is helping Middle East Christians realize a better life — one in which they are able to raise and support their families in peace, and one in which they can worship without fear.

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Category: Editorials