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My brothers live in my hometown, which in many ways is far away from my life in the nation's capital. Yet despite the distance between us, we share life with one another. The hopes and heartaches of my brothers are my own. And when something happens to me, my brothers are often the first to celebrate or mourn with me, even if they do so from thousands of miles way. We are bound together in fraternal solidarity.
But my biological brothers are not my only brothers. I am also bound in solidarity with all the men and women who have been baptized into Christ, who week-after-week pray: Our Father, Pater noster, Abā-nā. All Christians, from all parts of the world, are my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East are enduring severe persecution right now. Indeed, in 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry declared that ISIS is carrying out a genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. The suffering that our fellow Christians are undergoing is unimaginable. For those of us who live in relative comfort, protected by the rule of law, we must ask ourselves: what do we owe our brothers and sisters who are being violently persecuted? What does it mean to live in solidarity with Middle East Christians?
Part of solidarity means taking on the burdens of others. The concerns of others, the pains of others, the sufferings of others become ours when we are in solidarity. As St. Paul teaches: "Bear one another's burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2). This teaching should strike us in a special way today, when we consider that St. Paul met the Lord Jesus in Syria. The Middle East is the spiritual homeland of all Christians.
As members of the one body of Christ, we are called to strengthen our fraternal and sororal bonds with Christians in all places. We are called to build solidarity.
We can begin to build solidarity with Middle East Christians by learning about their situation and listening to them tell their stories. We can also pray. When we hear others and carry their burdens to the Lord in prayer, we find that we are changed, that the joys and struggles of those for whom we pray become our own. It may seem like a small step, but it's an important one. We need to pray for our family in the Middle East.
On November 26, 2017, the Solemnity of Christ the King, join the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services, Aid to the Church in Need, and Catholic Near East Welfare Association for a day of prayer for Christians in the Middle East. Learn more about the day of Solidarity in Suffering at www.usccb.org/middle-east-christians. Let us take this day and the following week leading up to Advent to build bonds of solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters.
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