Well friends – its Christmas day for the Christian Orthodox community.
The affirmation of “Christ is Born!” is made joyfully among the faithful as they gather in the various Churches here.
Sadly, in other parts of the Middle East that joy is not present. Last night in Egypt there was a shooting attack that has left seven people dead. It happened perhaps as a revenge attack for a crime perpetrated allegedly by a Christian a couple of months ago against a Muslim.
But to have it happen after the evening Mass – which was celebrated an hour earlier in anticipation of some type of reprisal, is so incredibly disheartening to me.
In the forum of 'Peace on Earth – good will towards men, we have this happen.
And in Iraq, Christians there have suffered violence and intimidation since the fall of Sadam Hussien. The situation in Egypt last night reminds me of a car bombing that took place outside Bagdad's main Catholic cathedral a while ago. And what do we have today? Police standing guard during the service of worship and the Christian population moving away.
What strikes me most is that people do not understand the influence of Arab Christians in their lands for this region called the Middle East. Having lived here for 17 years now I can say that the futures of these peoples and of their countries are tied to the Christian presence.
On this day – a day where so many of the Christians living here are celebrating the fact that the Word became flesh, the witness to the Gospel is dwindling. Flesh is losing it's life. Yet, these Christians are the soul-savers here on the ground in very very discouraging and despairing circumstances.
Historically, when the Church has had it's darkest hours – it has shown itself strong. When there is no diversity there is polarization. Polarization does not lend itself to communication.
Please join me in my prayers for the Christian communities here in the middle east, for their witness, protection, and daily joy. It is hard to be here – but for many it is simply the core of their being – and they need our prayerful support and encouragement to do so – for the good of their communities, countries, and the Glory of Christ.
Middle East Correspondent