My dear Christian friends of the Middle East,
I write to you from my community of L’Arche where I have lived for almost 50 years with people with intellectual disabilities. I know many of you thanks to my various journeys to the Middle East, when I visited your communities of Faith & Light and L’Arche there. Now many of you are living in precarious situations, dangerous ones, amid persecution, war and injustice.
Christmas is coming. Christmas is a time of gentle peace, and yet which recalls a terrible time of war, when Herod assassinated all the children under two years old around Bethlehem – what horror! The cries of those children, the screams of their mothers and the impotent rage of their fathers! Joseph and Mary fled with their infant to escape this persecution. Today many of you are like the Holy Family, refugees living in tents.
Today I feel uneasy to be far away from you, but I am united with you in the body of Christ. We are together; my prayer and that of your many friends is that you be enveloped in peace. Fear so quickly destroys us. Jesus often exhorted his disciples, saying «Be not afraid, do not fear little ones, because it has pleased your Father to give you His Kingdom» Jesus wants to say to each one «Have faith, know that you are beloved, and that I am with you».
Many of you live in the land of Jesus. This land was evangelized by Jesus himself and by his disciples. You are each so important to God and Jesus is with you; He is not there to take away your suffering, but he is there to give you the strength to bear the suffering.
We are with you in our hearts and spirits. St Paul says that in the Body which is the Church the weakest are the most indispensable; they make present Jesus crucified. Yes, the Christians of the Middle East are crucified. Mary is present with Jesus crucified, and she is present with you; may she bring you peace and tenderness.
Make sure to tell your neighbours, Muslim men and women who praise and honor the God of peace, and who have been wounded by those who debase the Holy name of God by their violence, that we pray with them and for them. We also pray for those who have been caught up in the world of violence; that they may refind the true God of peace.
The God of us all desires peace, so that we can come together with open and loving hearts, as the beloved children of God.
May the God of peace bless you all !