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Patriarch John X and the God Who is With Us

Patriarch John X has come to us while his country is under attack by terrorist groups, his brother and other churchmen remain captive, he and his people face the constant threat of martyrdom, and lands belonging to the Patriarchate are being imposed upon by other Orthodox churches. Despite all this, the Patriarch rejoiced in us and with us, preached peace and love, spoke truth in love and expressed true Christian joy. What a witness of faith! 

Echoing in my mind is the Patriarch’s plea for Americans of faith to call upon our governments of the U.S. and Canada to support peace.  The Patriarch said that we are not looking for protection. Protection for us, while peaceful Muslim brothers and sisters who lived with us for centuries remain unprotected, is not enough. We need peace. We need outside powers to stop interfering in Syria and stop imposing their own agenda. Syria needs peace.

The Patriarch spoke constantly about God’s presence with us, a presence made evident by his smile and loving posture. He spoke of the centrality of the Eucharist and the importance of worship. He offered constant images of the mystical reality of the Church shown by our being together. Together we worship in heaven with the angels and saints. Our Church of centuries and in all places is united.

On the New Martyrs of the Middle East: An Orthodox Christian View

“The Decent into Hades” or, “The Harrowing of Hades”. The artist is unknown. Tempera on wood, from the Novgorod School of Russia and thought to be painted in the 13th century. The Icon is provided by Uncut Mountain Supply“The Decent into Hades” or, “The Harrowing of Hades”. The artist is unknown. Tempera on wood, from the Novgorod School of Russia and thought to be painted in the 13th century. The Icon is provided by Uncut Mountain Supply www.uncutmountainsupply.comby His Grace Bishop Thomas (Joseph), Ed.D., The Word, May 2015

In recent months, images and stories of Christians being killed for their faith in the Middle East have flooded our news sources and dominated our social media. We see beheadings and shootings, sometimes available as gruesome videos on the Internet that are intended by their makers to inspire some to join their cause and others to cower in fear. We have seen bishops kidnapped, priests shot in the street as they ministered to the suffering, and innocents lined up and had their heads sawn off with knives.

Christians are not the only ones suffering in the Middle East—Muslims, Druze, Yazidis and others are also being targeted by the armies of takfirism. They are also dying for their faith, and even though we Christians do not share their religion with them, we still suffer with them in solidarity, because Christ still died and rose from the dead for them, even if they do not believe it.

We ask God, "Why?" We ask each other, "What can be done?" We wonder what kind of response there can be to this horrifying new reality, the spirit of takfirism, the mindset that makes religious accusation of others into a way of life, enforced by death and suffering for those who do not measure up to the ideology of these armies that sweep across that ancient, sanctified land.

How are we to understand what is happening? There is no shortage of analysis in the news and debate among our political leaders. But their answers do not satisfy, do they?

Christians who belong to the Orthodox Church are well acquainted with martyrdom, even if we ourselves do not live in places where our family and friends are being killed for Christ. Martyrdom forms the whole narrative shape of our history. Our calendar of saints is filled with thousands of martyrs' names, and there are millions more whose names we do not know. It was martyrdom itself which gave rise to our whole concept of having publicly venerated saints.

Arab Spring or Tornado?

Editorial by His Eminence Metropolitan Philip, from the June 2013 issue of The Word:

Since the so-called Arab Spring began in Libya in 2011, we have seen the devastation and destruction of that Arab country by Libyan and NATO forces. This Arab Spring has since spread to Tunisia and Egypt, the most populated Arab country. This fire has burned relentlessly in Gaza and all of Palestine since 1948. It is spreading into Jordan, Bahrain, and Iraq and has caused the most devastation in Syria, where many of us have ancestral roots. Unfortunately, the American and European news outlets are not reporting such stories to the world, neither through the written word nor graphic photographs like the ones you see in this sad issue of The WORD magazine. The WORD has been able to obtain these pictures and information from reliable sources. Syria has been most victimized and experienced the most devastation by this seemingly endless war. The WORD believes that the only country that can bring peace to this most explosive region of the world is the United States of America, because America has leverage over Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Europe.

Works of the Order in Action!

The Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch and International Christian Charities (IOCC)

Ehmej School (near Byblos, Lebanon) before and afterEhmej School (near Byblos, Lebanon) before and after

In the parable of the Sower and the Seed (Matthew 13:1–23), Jesus explains to His disciples that the one “who receives the word on good ground is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

Each year the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch makes a grant to International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). This annual grant of $25,000 is much like the seed or word which falls on good ground. IOCC uses this “seed money” and leverages it with grants from governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and churchbased charities to bear fruit in abundance. Here are some examples:

Delegation to Syria

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

During this past September 13-18, I was part of a delegation sent to Syria by Metropolitan PHILIP to investigate the internal political situation in that country, particularly with respect to its Christian minority. Our group consisted of six priests of the Antiochian Archdiocese: Fathers Dimitri Darwich (our guide and the only Arabic- speaker), Timothy Ferguson, Joseph Huneycutt, John Winfrey, David Bleam, and myself; and two Protestant pastors: Bonn Clayton and Norman Wilson. An expert in international law, James Perry, came with us, too, accompanied by his wife, Martha, who served as the delegation’s secretary. Attached to the delegation as a reporter for Ancient Faith Radio was John Maddex, its Executive Director.

The following is my own assessment of that experience, along with some account of what I learned.

Let me begin by expressing a deep, sincere gratitude to Metropolitan PHILIP, both for the golden opportunity to visit Syria and for the confidence he placed in myself and the others he sent.

Most of this trip was devoted to matters not directly related to its purpose – namely, visits to shrines and other places of cultural interest. We began, in fact, by first paying our respects at the house of St. Ananias, the first bishop of Damascus, who baptized Saul of Tarsus. We also saw the window in the city wall, through which the Apostle was lowered in a basket. We walked many blocks along and around the “street called Straight,” passing through the Christian and Jewish sections of the city. (There are still three thousand Jews in Syria, by the way, another of the minorities who find a secure home in that country.)

My Damascus Summer

by Daniel G. Khalil, Jr.

From mid-July through mid-August 2009, I was a resident at St. Elias Monastery in the Dweila neighborhood of Damascus, Syria. I was accompanied by a group of nearly twenty young adults from the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and Australia, participating in a program called Damascus Summer Encounter ( – a one-month or two-month program designed to foster friendship and understanding between young people from western nations and the people of Syria. About half of the group had signed up for the two-month session and had joined the Damascus Summer Encounter in mid-June; the other half had opted to participate only in the one-month program and arrived in Damascus in mid-July. In short, the Damascus Summer Encounter is a comprehensive program offering participants an intense yet personal inter-cultural experience combining cultural seminars, language training, visits to historic sites, and, most importantly, community service.

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