Carmelites Keep Christians in Middle East

Collaborate to Provide Jobs; Point to Signs of Hope

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KOENIGSTEIN, Germany, MARCH 23, 2011 ( Discalced Carmelites in Lebanon say it is crucial for Christians to remain in the Middle East, and they are collaborating to bring jobs and hope to the faithful there.

This was the report from Father Raymond Abdo, the provincial of the Discalced Carmelite Fathers in Lebanon, when he spoke with Aid to the Church in Need.

He told the charity that the most important service that can be done for Middle East Christians is helping them not to emigrate. Though the priest acknowledged the difficulties, he affirmed that he wants his own presence in the Middle East to be a testimony that “it is possible to stay.”

Father Abdo said it is important to convince Christians not to sell their houses and properties. He said that money coming from Iran and the Gulf states is being used to purchase real estate.

The Carmelite also pointed to a need to create employment opportunities, saying that Christians are often discriminated against in searching for a job.

He offered the example of the Carmelites’ collaboration with a Christian man who has established an international software firm. The Carmelite monastery in Kobayat gave him a place to begin work and 45 jobs were thus created in the village, with hopes to provide more than 100 jobs over the next year.

“We might suffer, we might have difficulties, but when we are united with Christ, then we are bearing witness to him and giving hope to others,” Father Abdo said. “We are also giving hope to the Muslims and the other communities, since without us they would not have the opportunity to come to know Christ.”

The priest also noted signs of hope in collaboration between Muslims and Christians in schools and universities. Even in politics there is a “good dialogue,” he said, even though this is “not always founded on the right principles.”

The Carmelites in Lebanon have six monasteries with 31 monks, over half of whom are 35 years old or under. There continue to be vocations, though fewer than in the past, Father Abdo told Aid to the Church in Need. He explained that young people in Lebanon are connected via Internet to the whole world and thus have “the same problems as everywhere in today’s world.”

But, he said, “when Jesus Christ enters into a person’s heart, he does not ask permission of the mind or the culture, but simply says ‘Come!'”

Some 40 years ago Lebanon was the only country in the Middle East with a Christian majority; today there is a Muslim majority and Christians make up 45% of the population.

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