Want to help Mideast Christians?

Then don’t forget to pray, says bishop

Avatar

Christians in the western world sat helpless as they watched 21 Egyptian Christians beheaded by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). “Their blood confesses Christ,” Pope Francis said in response to the atrocity in February.

Calling the murdered “martyrs,” the pope urged that the deaths stir ecumenical unity, saying, “It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians!”

On May 15, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver and Maronite Catholic Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, 30 other clergy and 200 laity heeded the pope’s call with an ecumenical prayer breakfast to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians and rally aid.

The event was organized by Maronite Father Andre Mahanna, director of ecumenism for Our Lady of Lebanon Eparchy and pastor of St. Rafka Church in Lakewood, where the service was held.

It included a procession—with Orthodox and Lutheran bishops and pastors, a Mormon stake (deanery) president and a Baptist minister—and testimony about the plight of victimized Christians.

“Lebanon is a land of 4 million people, and over 2 million refugees,” Bishop Zaidan said about his birthplace, which borders Syria, adding that the need is overwhelming both the government and the Church.

Christian casualties in Syria, which has a population of 22.9 million, according to the United Nations, include 1.5 million displaced, more than 6,400 killed and 10,000 abductions. Entire villages have been destroyed, countless numbers of children orphaned and Christian women taken as sex slaves as ISIS expands it’s self-declared Islamic state.

Archbishop Aquila exhorted the audience to build awareness of the atrocities.

“The fact that (Christians) put their faith in Jesus Christ is the only reason (they) are being killed (by ISIS),” he said. “It’s especially important for people in the United States to speak out against this.”

Among the suggestions speakers offered is urging elected officials to take action and donating to humanitarian relief efforts.

“Never forget your (persecuted Christian) brothers and sisters,” Bishop Zaidan emphasized. “Never forget to pray for them. We underestimate the importance and power of prayer.”

The program also highlighted the heartening reunification of two refugee children from Iraq who were close friends but separated when they were uprooted from their homes. One of them, Miryam, said she forgave her aggressors the same way she and her friend, Sandra, forgive each other.

“This is the greatest story,” Father Mahanna said, translating for refugee workers Skyping from Lebanon. He said he aims to reunite the friends in person and bring them to the United States to serve as ambassadors for peace.

Carmelite Brother David Johnson, 34, a native Denverite who is a monk at St. James the Persian Monastery in Qara, Syria, shared an uplifting experience of God’s providence amidst the terrorism.

He told of being abducted from the monastery, which is surrounded by mountains filled with ISIS fighters, on Easter Monday three years ago by Syrian militia who thought he might be a spy. While being held hostage, Brother Johnson told his captors that although he is American, Jesus taught that one’s true home is with God the Father in heaven, and he sang an Easter hymn to them in Arabic.

“‘I’ve never heard that before, why don’t you sing that again,’” Brother Johnson recalled one of the soldiers saying. “So I sang again, ‘Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.’”

Drawing laughter, he added: “The guy said, ‘Let’s turn around the car. We’re taking him back to the monastery.’”

Fellow monk, Carmelite Father Daniel Maes, a 50-year priest from Belgium, stressed the importance of protecting Christianity in the lands where it started, noting that its disappearance there would bode ill for all Christians.

“When the roots of the tree are cut off,” he warned, “then the tree outside will die also.”

TO HELP

Donate: Make check payable to St. Rafka Church, mail to 2301 Wadsworth Blvd., Lakewood, CO 80214; indicate in the memo line: Middle East Refugee Aid

 

COMING UP: What will be your faith legacy?

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

By Deacon Jim Parrilli

The Catholic Foundation invites you to experience the joy of giving now and beyond your lifetime.

When you choose to give, you choose to love and that creates profound joy. The Catholic Foundation is here to help you consider making gifts that will keep giving… gifts that will support the Kingdom of God.

In the sixth chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, he reminds us, “So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.”

The Archdiocese of Denver established The Catholic Foundation of Northern Colorado in 1998 to be legally separate and distinct from the archdiocese, with the intent and sole purpose of supporting our Catholic community financially for generations to come.

The Catholic Foundation gathers and grows assets to ensure that a strong, vibrant, and faithful Catholic community will always be right there at your parish and throughout the entire archdiocese.

What does this have to do with your end-of-year charitable gifting? Gifting into The Catholic Foundation gives you the ease and flexibility of opportunities that no other institution can match.

The Catholic Foundation facilitates giving to the Church using funds and opportunities, such as Donor Advised Funds and Planned Gifts from Your Estate. They accept stocks, insurance policies, IRAs, real estate and nearly any viable asset to promote the Gospel message, transform lives and give glory to God.

When you give through The Catholic Foundation, you can designate support to a specific Catholic entity, like parishes, schools, ministries, seminaries, or other charitable causes. Enjoy peace of mind knowing you will partner with a company that adheres to Catholic teachings, honors faith-based priorities, and upholds the standards of Morally-Responsible Investment Policy in accord with the USCCB.

Matthew 19:29 says: “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”

Each one of us is different with different circumstances, backgrounds, and financial responsibilities. And it is up to us to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us.

Popular asset vehicles that The Catholic Foundation clients consider include:
• Bequest: Simply include language in your Will to specify a gift to be made – either as a dollar amount or a percentage of assets.
• Special Gifts: Leave charitable gifts of real estate, stocks, bonds or other assets.
• Trust or Annuity: Create a Trust or Annuity to provide lifetime income for you or a loved one and then pass remaining assets to charity.
• Life Insurance: If you are maintaining coverage that you or your family no longer need, just change the beneficiary – or gift the paid-up policy now.
• Retirement Plan Assets, IRA: You may indicate a charitable organization as the beneficiary of your retirement account. Call if you want to hear how to avoid taxes on your IRA.

Another way to support Catholic causes is through a Donor Advised Account. Here’s how it works:
• Start your account at The Catholic Foundation with a simple agreement that can be completed in minutes.
• Add assets to your account as an individual, family or corporation – or transfer assets from another foundation or donor advised fund.
• Recommend charitable gift distributions to Catholic parishes, schools, seminaries, apostolates or other nonprofit organizations.
• Receive special tax advantages and an immediate charitable tax deduction for each contribution to your account.

Prudent planning starts with just a conversation. Please call 303-468-9885 and ask for Lisa, Jean or Deacon Steve to discuss the many investment options available to support what matters most to you or visit them at thecatholicfoundation.com.