Gruesome videos of beheadings and crucifixions, along with images of destroyed churches and deserted villages from which thousands have been forced to flee, show us that the persecution of Christians in the Middle East is all too real.
The mainstream media gives us regular close-ups of conflicts in Iraq and Syria, but it doesn’t always focus on the plight of Christians. The persecuted Christians can seem very far away, and maybe we don’t often see ways to help.
The truth is: They are so close to us spiritually that we should feel their pain as fellow members of the Church, the body of Christ. As 1 Corinthians 12:26 states: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
So what can we do?
We can do quite a few things in the course of a normal day to help our suffering brothers and sisters.
Below are some ideas for how to incorporate small prayers, sacrifices and other actions for the Middle-Eastern Christians into your Lenten practices.
I feel confident that if the situation were reversed they would do the same for us.
- Offer up small annoyances, setbacks and undesirable tasks.
- Do small works of mercy for the intentions of the persecuted Christians. Offer someone a smile, a kind word or some assistance. Be patient with a difficult person.
- Pray a Hail Mary or a short prayer each time you drive past a specific landmark or do a routine task.
- Donate to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) or Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Both organizations were founded by the Church and have a long history of providing aid in the Middle East.
- Make small daily or weekly sacrifices — fast from social media, TV or your favorite book or video game. Or give up a coffee, candy bar or favorite food and donate the money you save over a month.
- Pray the Stations of the Cross, uniting the persecuted Christians’ suffering with Jesus’ suffering.
- Pray a Rosary, or even just one decade, for Christians who are suffering.
- Pray for the martyrs’ loved ones and for their persecutors.
- Raise awareness by bringing up the plight of the persecuted Christians in conversation.
- Post photos and articles about the persecution of Middle-Eastern Christians or the destruction of churches on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
- Email or call politicians’ offices and ask that they place more attention on the suffering of Middle-Eastern Christians and try to secure relief funds.
Susan Klemond writes from St. Paul, Minnesota.