They have one desire – to remain in their “beloved homeland”
In a dramatic appeal to “all who help us through Aid to the Church in Need”, Gregorios III Laham, Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Syria, and Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Christians in Iraq, are calling for a day of prayer and fasting so that God “may finally grant our country the long-awaited peace.”
In separate letters to the benefactors and friends of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the two church leaders in Syria and Iraq have called upon them to join them in praying and fasting for the Christians in Iraq and Syria on Ash Wednesday. They wrote that Ash Wednesday is to be a joint day of supplication to God.
War has “apocalyptic dimensions”, in the “cradle of Christianity”
Both patriarchs thank the benefactors for their help, without which “many of us would be dead, have starved to death, frozen or already fled.” To quote Patriarch Sako, “We are all very thankful for this help. However, what is most needed is mercy. For this reason I would like to ask you at the beginning of this Lenten period and especially on Ash Wednesday: pray and fast for peace in our country! Pray and fast that God has mercy on us! Pray and fast that we may remain in our homelands, that the refugees may return to their villages and cities.”
According to Bishop Sako, “the war in Iraq and Syria is taking on apocalyptic dimensions.”
The human race is facing the largest humanitarian catastrophe since the end of World War II. Once thriving cities such as Mosul and the villages on the Nineveh plains have been reduced to rubble. “Those who could flee, did. Millions of children in refugee camps are waiting for their daily bread, but they thirst for a future, they want schools and a home. They want to return to their homelands, as do their parents and relatives.” In this situation, Aid to the Church in Need is “like a mother to us,” Patriarch Sako said. “I know that you are also doing this out of love for Christ. And that is the reason for my request: pray and fast that we may remain in our beloved homeland. So that we may also experience a resurrection from the rubble, an Easter in the Land of Abraham.”
Patriarch Gregorios drew attention to the dramatic situation in Syria, the “cradle of Christianity”.
“Our faith is put to the test day after day. We see the suffering of the children, the pain of the parents, we are surrounded by hatred and death. We want to be able to live in peace once more in our beloved homeland.” For five years now, Patriarch Gregorios said, “we have been wandering through the desert. For us, your continuous help is like the manna that God gave to the Israelites to save them from starvation.”
The Christians in Syria “steadfastly believe that the Way of the Cross is necessary to achieve the glory of Resurrection.
However, even the Lord Himself had comforters and helpers at His side on the way to Golgotha: Simeon of Cyrene helped Christ carry the cross, Saint Veronica passed Him the veil, His Most Holy Mother and St. John the Apostle stood at the foot of the cross.” And so the Christians in Syria are hoping “for the comfort and aid of our brothers and sisters” and are now cordially asking people to join them on Ash Wednesday “for a day of fasting and prayer, a day on which we would like to entreat God together that He may finally grant our country the long-awaited peace.” Patriarch Gregorios concluded his letter with the words: “Your prayers, your encouragement and your support help us in our suffering. For this reason I would like to extend my invitation once more:
Please fast and pray with us! It is impossible that the Lord will not answer the combined prayers and sacrifices of His children. The most heartfelt thanks for everything!”
The international charity “Aid to the church in need” embraces the appeal of the patriarchs from Syria and Iraq. Under the slogan “Will you carry the cross for one day with them? Fast and pray on Ash Wednesday for Iraq and Syria,” ACN calls Christians from all over the world to fast and pray intensively on Ash Wednesday (February 10th). That way Christians can unite spiritually with their suffering brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq.
The campaign will be advertised in the social media with the hashtags
#FastandPray, #CarrytheCross, #AshWednesday, #Lent2016.
Will you carry the message?
Since March of 2011, Aid to the Church in Need has granted aid money totaling 40,121,500 million Canadian dollars to Christians and members of other religions in Syria and Iraq. Last month, the aid organisation began 19 aid programs, and will add another 20 emergency aid programs in the coming months.