My father was born and raised in the Holy Land and was taught by the Christian Brothers. In 1948, Palestine became Israel amidst much political and civil unrest. It was on his tenth birthday that my father fled to Egypt with his mother and four siblings. His father (my grandfather) stayed back to work, but eventually made his way to Egypt as well. After six months in a refugee camp, my grandfather was finally reunited with his wife and children.
From the age of ten to twenty-two, my dad lived in Egypt, attending Christian schools and then medical school. My father was the first in his family to leave the Middle East and come to America -- a place he'd only dreamed about. He is one of the most patriotic Americans you will ever meet, and a proud Vietnam veteran. While in medical school at Georgetown, he met my mother, a nursing student from a small Ohio town. They married and had two daughters (I'm the baby).
My parents have vacationed in Egypt many times over the past 46 years, and they were on vacation there just a few weeks ago when the Egyptian revolution began. We had some tense days trying to get them out of the country. They took a long car ride to Cairo, then spent countless hours in the mobbed Cairo airport, hoping to catch any plane out. They finally got two seats, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when we heard that their plane had touched down in Paris.
I bring up my connection to the Middle East because I love that land, and I love its people. I think that most Westerners (and most in the U.S.) don't realize how many of our fellow Christians are Arab. Arab Christianity is ancient and beautiful, but its presence in the Middle East is dwindling -- not due to a lack of faith, but due to persecution. I touched upon that sad truth once before on this blog, when memorializing little Adam of Baghdad, but I usually find it too difficult to think about. It's never been easy for Christian Arabs to live as a minority in Islamic nations, but lately the violence against them has escalated. Recent tragedies in Egypt include monks being shot and ancient monasteries destroyed and a mob of four thousand Muslims attacking Coptic Christians and torching their church, with fears of a massacre unfolding even as I type this.
In my horror and sorrow, I feel helpless to aid my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Through our baptism, we are the Body of Christ ... one Body. Many members of that Body are suffering as Christ on the Cross.
I guess I am asking that everyone reading these words will pray for the Christians in the Middle East, the birthplace of our great Faith, as well as for Christians everywhere who are being persecuted, terrorized and murdered every day. It is Sunday, so perhaps you could even offer your mass for them: for the consolation and strength needed to persevere in their Faith, for supernatural comfort as they grieve their loved ones and their churches, and, if necessary, for the grace to endure the martyrdom that may befall them at any time, even this very day.
Ultimately, we know and they know that our hope lies in Jesus Christ our Savior.
He makes all things new.