Christmas Letters From the Middle East

Christmas in Kurdistan, Iraq; ACN photo

Christmas in Kurdistan, Iraq; ACN photo

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako I—celebrating Christmas in ‘silence and amidst tears’
The feast of the birth of Christ is one of the greatest feasts celebrated by millions of Christians around the world and particularly in Iraq. But this year Iraqi Christians will celebrate Christmas in deplorable circumstances, one the one hand because of the deteriorating condition of the situation of our country at all levels, and, on the other hand, because of what they have gone through as Christians, victims of segregation and exclusion. 

On this occasion, we want to be very frank again: we will not give in to injustice. On the contrary, we will remain attached to our land, and to our patriotism and we will continue to show love for our fellow citizens, simply because they are our brothers and sisters.

In Iraq, we will celebrate the birth of Christ, who will come into our hearts in silence and amidst tears, without public displays or festive gatherings; nonetheless, we continue to enjoy an inner peace with perpetuates the joy of faith, and the hope that, despite all the suffering, we are moving toward the building of a more just country and a better future.

Melkite Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo, Syria—‘celebrating the Feast of the Nativity as bombs are raining down’
Here we are, for a fifth year now, celebrating the Feast of the Nativity as bombs are raining down. I do not know how many of you have lived through such a depressing and sad experience, but I can assure you it is painful these beautiful days, so ardently awaited each year, amidst shortages and lack of security, or electricity and, to top things off, cut off from the rest of the world by a strict and very tight boycott. It gives me still more reason to step out from these confines, if only for a few moments, to draw in some fresh and pleasant air in writing you these words from the heart, invested with all the affection I have for you!

May Almighty God have pity on all of us and he may cause friendship to reign among men, mercy in our hearts and peace among all the peoples on earth.

Maronite Archbishop Samir Nassar of Damascus—‘This year Christmas in Damascus merges with the Resurrection’
The name of the first of three new Maronite churches in Damascus is Church of the Blessed Masabky Brothers, who were martyred in 1860. The church will be consecrated in Kachkoul, an eastern suburb of Damascus, on Jan. 8, 2015. In the middle of destruction this new chapel appears like the Star of the magi which leads to the Divine Child.  It is a true Christmas present, an oasis of prayer and a sign of joy and of hope in the middle of a world of violence, of intolerance, anguish, fear and death. To build a Church in times of war and desolation expresses the will to overcome death and the courage of living the faith. Our modest faithful choose to row against the current and to renew their confidence in Jesus Christ in this dark night. This year Christmas in Damascus merges with the Resurrection.

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action. Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world. The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide. For more information contact Michael Varenne at [email protected] or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384. www.churchinneed.org