Prayers for world peace and healing

Prayers for world peace and healing

By Father Joseph D. Wallace

Last week a gathering took place to address the barbarous attacks of ISIS and other Islamic State militants upon innocent Christians in the Middle East. This historic meeting took place in Washington, D.C. between patriarchs from the Middle East and lawmakers and international human rights activists.

The gathering took place because the entire Christian community in the Middle East is now threatened with disappearing due to hundreds of thousands fleeing the area, and thousands being killed by various radical Islamic military groups.

The three day event was sponsored by In Defense of Christians (IDC) and featured speakers from all over the world. The IDC Summit for Middle East Christians, whose theme was “Protecting and Preserving Christianity, Where It All Began,” was the first time in history that six Christian patriarchs from the Middle East gathered in the United States. The IDC president, Toufic Baaklini, said, “For too long, Westerners have stood by, silent or unaware, while Christians and other groups in the Middle East have endured discrimination, persecution and religious cleansing. Today, as the Islamic State continues its genocidal campaign against Christians in Iraq and Syria, the globe is finally awakening to their plight. IDC exists to give voice to these voiceless people.”

Patriarchs who attended are: His Eminence, Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, His Beatitude, Gregorius III Laham, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Alexandria and Jerusalem, His Beatitude, Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude, Ignatius Youssef III Yonan, Syriac Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, His Beatitude, Aram I Keshishian, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, His Eminence the Most Rev. Metropolitan Joseph Al-Zehlaoui, Archbishop of New York and All North America of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and His Excellence, Ibrahim Ibrahim, Bishop Emeritus of Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle.

Nearly a thousand Christian leaders, politicians and laypeople gathered for the IDC summit. They sent clear messages to U.S. leadership that Christians in the Middle East need to be protected from persecution and extermination.

Andrew Doran, executive director of IDC, said, “Some in this city have asked why Christianity is vital to the Middle East, what’s in it for America? The short answer is that Christian institutions provide social services, health care and education for millions throughout the region and that this alone does more to prevent violent extremism than can be measured.”

He added, “Christians are not only the doctors, professors, lawyers and businessmen in their communities; they are also the servants. Their very presence is a source of pluralism that has a moderating influence throughout the region. This is the answer for the (American) policymaker.”

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches, spoke at the gathering and echoed Pope Francis’ call that the United Nations must be “the place where decisions are made in which all peoples not only proclaim but also defend in practice, with adequate resolutions and actions, the dignity of the Christians in the Middle East, together with those who belong to every other minority.”

In light of all the conflicts taking place in our world today, an ecumenical group in Washington is calling for prayer for world peace and healing. The International Week of Prayer and Fasting will take place Sept. 20-28. Organizers are encouraging individuals, families and congregations to gather for prayer and to organize a fast.

The chairperson, Maureen Flynn explained, “We felt what was needed in our country was a grassroots movement of people praying and fasting for the goals of our nation.”

Let us join in with our prayers and fasting for a more peaceful world.

Father Joseph D. Wallace is director, Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, Diocese of Camden.