The Christian patrimony of the Middle East must be protected at all costs. “We are strong in our faith, rooted in our history. We have been here for 2000 years. We refuse to go!”
That is the message proclaimed by Maronite Bishop Elias Sleman, who heads the Eparchy of Latakia, Syria. He is on a mission to get the support of Catholics in the US and Europe to help provide his people with the means to return home, make a new start, or simply stay put.
Though he acknowledges that “radical Islamists are hunting down everything that belongs to the cross,” he refuses to leave and urges his flock to stay with him and make the most of remaining pockets of relative peace in Syria.
“In this land we lack everything today, but we have the one thing that matters, the treasure hidden in the field: our faith,” he says.
The bishop is asking for the funds that will provide his people with means of livelihood.
“Help us to sanctify our land, this earth, with the work of our hands,” the bishop says. Staying home is these Christians’ birthright and their presence is a blessing for all the people of Syria: “We cannot allow the land to be without Christians, because the Christian presence helps Muslims to be moderate,“ says the bishop, adding that “the environment of Islam benefits from the engagement of the Christian faith, which ensures, of course, also our own openness with regard to the Muslim world.“
Christians are peacemakers.“Help us stay,“ Bishop Sleman pleaded.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)