Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, accompanied by his predecessor, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, joined with Orthodox leaders of Denver earlier this month to jointly condemn the violence of Islamic State and other related conflicts in the Middle East.
“With the wars in Syria and Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State, a perverse and toxic fundamentalism has grown like a plague to afflict all peoples of the Middle East and has made its way to Europe and America,” states the joint declaration, presented Aug. 18 at an event at St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church.
Archbishop Aquila and Cardinal Stafford joined with 16 other religious leaders in adding their names to the document, titled “Peace, Love and Co-Existence among the Children of Abraham.” Among the signees was Bishop Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles.
The signatories invite all citizens of the United States to take responsibility for the care and protection of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
The event for the presentation of the document marked the first time Archbishop Aquila, as archbishop of Denver, and His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah, leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis, publicly met together.
The gathering served as a precursor to a major Ecumenical prayer to be held in Washington, D.C., Sept. 7-9, which is being organized by Father Andre Mahanna, pastor of St. Rafka’s.
George Athanasopoulos, Republican nominee for Colorado’s 7th Congressional District, co-hosted the event with Archbishop Aquila.
The document calls on the faithful to urge the White House and Congress to protect our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and for other elected officials to act with this issue in mind.
“All must stand united, demanding justice for our Christian brothers and sisters and other innocent souls,” the document asserts.
For the first time in history, we face the very real possibility that Christianity may cease to exist in the land where Jesus was born. It is time for greater action: that is, to stand united in faith and to labor to prevent evil. It is time for government, churches, and people to oppose genocide and declare it as evil with one overwhelming voice so that it can be stopped at its source.”
The declaration also recalls recent victims of terrorism, including the elderly priest Father Jacques Hamel, who was slain July 26 as he celebrated Mass at his parish in Normandy, as well as both the Greek and Syriac Orthodox archbishops of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi and Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim, kidnapped in Syria on April 22, 2013, and still unaccounted for. Their driver, Deacon Fatha’ Allah Kabboud, was killed.
The declaration details the disturbing trends of life in the Middle East, and particularly the dwindling number of Christians who brave the violence of some areas to stay in their ancestral lands.
“For the first time in history, we face the very real possibility that Christianity may cease to exist in the land where Jesus was born,” the declaration warns. “It is time for greater action: that is, to stand united in faith and to labor to prevent evil. It is time for government, churches, and people to oppose genocide and declare it as evil with one overwhelming voice so that it can be stopped at its source.”
Featured photo by Dennis Kolehmainen