Each day, innocent Christians around the world are ruthlessly martyred for their faith. It would seem a pressing social justice issue, yet it often falls upon deaf ears.
Father Andre Mahanna and the St. Rafka Mission of Hope and Mercy advocates for those who are being persecuted and serves as the foundation for an interfaith community that gathers each year to pray for an end to the violence wrought on Christians. On May 20, this interfaith community gathered once more for the second annual ecumenical prayer breakfast, hosted by Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Bishop Abdallah E. Zaidan of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles.
The breakfast was once again organized by Father Mahanna, who serves as the director of ecumenism for Our Lady of Lebanon Eparchy and is also the pastor of St. Rafka’s Maronite Catholic Church in Lakewood. The event was held at St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Lakewood.
A time of prayer and contemplation was held in the church, during which ecumenical leaders led the congregation in a series of prayers and hymns. Afterwards, an authentic Lebanese breakfast was served in the basement of St. Bernadette.
There is an active persecution in the lands where it all began, and it is our daily responsibility in every century to make sure that land still stands as a mosaic for peace and co-existence between what God willed in his holy book.”
Archbishop Aquila commended Father Mahanna and the Mission of Hope and Mercy for raising awareness of the plight of persecuted Christians and providing legitimate aid to them.
“I ask that you continue to support the Mission of Hope and Mercy and the work Father Andre has done in bringing all of this about,” he sad. “Highlighting all of this for us in Colorado has been a tremendous blessing, and I am deeply grateful to him and St. Rafka’s for their spearheading of this mission.”
Several volunteers with the Mission of Hope and Mercy shared their personal testimonies of working for the mission, and Father Mahanna spoke about the urgency of ecumenical cooperation to address this dire situation, especially that of different Christian denominations.
“We must break the wall between Christians. The effect of what we are suffering from in the Middle East comes predominantly from the lack of sympathy, charity, compassion, love and mercy between Christians ourselves,” Father Mahanna said. “There is an active persecution in the lands where it all began, and it is our daily responsibility in every century to make sure that land still stands as a mosaic for peace and co-existence between what God willed in his holy book.”
Also sharing his testimony was Father Oja Gafour, an episcopalian priest who serves as the African missioner at Church of the Epiphany in Denver. He called attention to the Christians in the Nuba mountains of Sudan who are current targets of genocide, and implored each person in the audience to offer the virtue of courage to stand up against these atrocities and defend the Christian faith.
Father Mahanna challenged everybody to contemplate their own place in the Body of Christ and discern the ways in which they can help persecuted Christians throughout the world — an act which he believes is a inherent duty of each and every Christian.
“The source of the St. Rafka Mission of Hope and Mercy is not Father Andre, or this good institution,” Father Andre said. “I believe, and I would be happy to defend this until my death, it’s a call from God to each and every one of us to be a true, concrete extension of God’s existence.”
Mission of Hope and Mercy
To learn more about St. Rafka’s Mission of Hope and Mercy or to donate to their cause, visit savechristianmiddleeast.org