2016 in Review: Syrian Christians in the Crossfire

It can be difficult sometimes finding a favorite, or best article of the past year.  This year one post came immediately to mind. The following is a reblog of an article I wrote back in October.  Most of the time I’m writing about broad, abstract ideas like liberty  and conservatism.  This one was a little different, it was about an ongoing specific problem being faced by a specific group of people.    -JP Mac

EGG HARBOR TWP, NJ

Candle for Homs, Syria
Candle for one of the many Syrian cities ravaged by the civil war.

During war civilians always suffer, but what happens when neither side has their well-being in mind?  In Syria, the Assad government aided by their Russian allies fight a host of rebel factions with little regard to collateral damage done to non-combatants. On the other side are hardline Islamists such as ISIS who have even less compunction against killing civilians and in fact, actively target them.  Christians and other religious minorities have been singled out by the Islamic fighters for genocide.  This prompted the formation of Christians United for Peace:  Syria, a non-profit group dedicated to helping the Syrian Christians and other minorities caught in the crossfire.  Recently, the organization held an event to raise awareness of the desperate situation of Syrian Christians in Egg Harbor Township, NJ.  Atlantic City Councilman and member of the Pastoral Council at the Parish of Saint Monica Catholic Church. Jesse O. Kurtz was asked to help put the event together.

Jesse O. Kurtz
The Honorable Jesse Kurtz (R), Atlantic City, NJ

Jesse O. Kurtz explains why he got involved with the effort and what he believes the event he organized accomplished:

“The genocide in the Middle East of Christians is surreal.   I think that is one of the reasons that more people are not speaking out about it.   The key of this event was to bring awareness to the reality of Christian genocide in the Middle East.   The speakers did an excellent job of sharing personal testimonies, as well as offering top quality talks on the history of Christians in the Middle East, the case for why the current violence is indeed genocide, and what life is like for the Church in Syria and Iraq.”

And indeed, the Syrian people have suffered greatly due to the civil war.  According to the IOCC:

  • Since 2011, Syria’s violent civil war has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and displaced more than 7.6 million.
  • More than half of Syria’s population has been displaced from their homes, often multiple times, creating mass instability and uncertainty for its people.

Secretary of State John Kerry:

“We know that in areas under its control, Daesh (ISIS) has made a systematic effort to destroy the cultural heritage of ancient communities – destroying Armenian, Syrian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches; blowing up monasteries and the tombs of prophets; desecrating cemeteries; and in Palmyra, even beheading the 83-year-old scholar who had spent a lifetime preserving antiquities there.”

The event held at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox was attended by approximately 400 persons, including clergy from the Syriac Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, and Roman Catholic Church.  Each of these Christian communities has suffered at the hands of ISIS.  Other guest speakers ranged from history professors to witnesses to the strife in Syria who gave firsthand accounts of the human tragedy.  It is one thing to watch brief glimpses of the war on TV, but it is quite another to hear accounts of people who have seen firsthand the devastation.  As an outside observer, one cannot completely understand the experience of the Christians now in Syria, but one can certainly feel for them and understand that this is more than something that we see unfolding on our TV screens each night, but a real catastrophe affecting millions of real people.

The event of course was more than just about raising awareness; it was about raising contributions to the four key Christian charities Christians United for Peace: Syria.  Those aid organizations are:

  • International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC)
  • The Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund
  • Middle East Council of Churches
  • International Christians Outreach

These organizations provide the following critical and essential supplies:

  • Basic food supplies
  • Clean water
  • Cooking equipment
  • Baby supplies, including diapers
  • Dignity kits for women
  • Clothing and shoes
  • Mattresses and bedding

When we think of genocide, often think of the holocaust and the mass killing of Jews during WWII, or we think of Rwanda, or the ethnic cleansing inside the former Yugoslavia.  As with the liquidation of the ghettos in WWII by the NAZI’s part of genocide against the Christians and Yezidis involves the mass theft of anything of value.  Not just valuables, but life’s essentials were taken, like medications and even shoes.  The victims of the ISIS genocide in Iraq and Syria that were “lucky” enough to be allowed to escape to Kurdish territories were done so in such a way as to cause maximum hardship if not outright death by sickness and starvation.  Imagine the liquidation of the Jewish ghettos combined with the Trail of Tears forced upon the American Indians, and you get some sense of the torment ISIS put Christians and Yezidis through.

This was one comparatively small event, held in a small New Jersey shore town, but Councilman Kurtz thinks that with help, some relief can be brought to this ancient Christian community:

“There is now a group of hundreds of people locally aware and looking to bring relief and hope to our persecuted brethren.   We shall see what next steps are directed through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.”

Amen.

Democratizing Catholicism? I think not.

Progressives v. CatholicsIn a world where the words “offend, offended, and offensive” are so overused, I have to say that I’m properly offended by the casual anti-Catholic bigotry on the left and particularly that of current senior members of the Clinton campaign staff.   You’ve probably heard now of the leaked emails of Hillary’s campaign chairman John Podesta. (For a good synopsis, check out: WikiLeaks: Podesta and Left-Wing Activist Plot ‘Catholic Spring’ by Edmund Kozak)  The leaked emails from  talk about subverting Catholic doctrine with the idea of bringing about a “Catholic spring”.   Let me rephrase that:  Leaders of the Democratic party because so much of Catholic doctrine specifically when it comes to issues of pro-life and marriage, goes against their liberal agenda, decided to subvert the Church in America and replace its core doctrines with ones more in line with their political goals.

“There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church,” wrote left-wing activist Sandy Newman to Podesta.

How does one democratize a religion?  Would the members get to vote on Church doctrine?  Cardinals get to vote for the Pope, should they act like delegates as if the conclave of cardinals were some sort of political convention?  Here my message for Podesta and friends:  Catholic doctrine was created by Christ.  It was codified a long time ago by Emperor Constantine I in the fourth century.  That is the basis of the Catholic Church, now and forever, unless the Big Man Upstairs orders a change.  If He does, you can bet it won’t be the  purposes of facilitating your political gain, your pro-abortion, anti-life agenda.

The leaked emails show utter contempt for Catholics, suggesting them backwards in their beliefs. The writers of these emails show a complete lack of understanding about the Vatican and the Church at large. The fact is, progressives such as those quoted in the emails see the Church as a hindrance advancing their social agenda.  The words of St. John Paul II hint at why the teachings of  Catholic Church might prove problematic to Progressives:

“True freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with license to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does not have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom and peace.”
Pope John Paul II

Progressive Democrats can’t have an entire voting bloc that thinks like that.

Every American has the right to ‘vote’ to be Catholic or not, to be religious or not, but the essence of what it means to be Catholic is not up for a vote. The Church’s essential teachings are not up for negotiation like planks in some political party’s platform.  The best way to teach and practice those fundamental doctrines of faith and life can and will be debated, but what those core doctrines themselves are will not and cannot be determined by the democratic process.

 

Prayer for our Nation (U.S.A)

Churchflags fbGod our Father, 
Giver of life, 
we entrust the United States of America to Your loving 
care. 

You are the rock on which this nation was founded. 
You alone are the true source of our cherished rights to 
life, 
liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

Reclaim this land for Your glory and dwell among Your 
people.

Send Your Spirit to touch the hearts of our nation´s 
leaders. 
Open their minds to the great worth of human life 
and the responsibilities that accompany human freedom.
Remind Your people that true happiness is rooted in 
seeking 
and doing Your will. 

Through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, 
Patroness of our land,
grant us the courage to reject the “culture of death.” 
Lead us into a new millennium of life. 
We ask this through Christ Our Lord.

Amen.