Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christians Naturally Forgive

Another year has passed and I can't believe the situation in the Middle East is still a mess, and by "situation," I mean the slaughtering and targeting of Christians by terrorists. 
And the saddest part it, it's nothing new.  This past Sunday, in the Epistle for the day we read in St. Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews:
Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
I never thought history would repeat itself but it has.  Yet, in the midst of it all there is a little girl, Myriam, who has stolen my heart as a true example of Christ's teachings. 
You might remember Myriam from this lovely video by SAT-7 KIDS, a popular children's show in the Middle East. They found her in a refugee camp in Irbil last year at Christmas and asked a few questions.   What was so fantastic about this little girl is her love and desire to forgive the terrorists who evicted her and thousands others from their homes.

Recently, ABCnews.com aired a follow-up interview  with a sweet girl named Myriam.  Her message: forgiveness. She told ABC News “20/20 co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas,  “Jesus said ‘forgive each other, love each other the way I love you...’”
It is hard to imagine how I’d respond if someone threw me out of my home and threatened my life for being a Christian.  I am embarrassed to admit that forgiveness wouldn’t be the first words rolling off my tongue. I would be angry, terrified, offended…   None of these are loving or trusting attributes.
But Myriam is from Qaraqosh.  It’s a city near Mosul, where as you might remember from August of 2014, ISIS had already swept through.  In an article titled  Iraq Christians flee as Islamic State takes Qaraqosh,  I read “…hundreds of Christian families fled Mosul after the Islamist rebels gave them an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or be executed.”
Mosul was, and I repeat “was,” one of the oldest Christian villages in the world.  They were Christian since Christ was on earth.  I imagine there are nuances to how they lived in a Christ-like manner that was deeply imbedded into their culture, things they would have taken for granted.
I am intrigued by this as a Yankee living in the Deep South.  I see many cultural nuances that are prominent in this part of the country.  One is impeccable manners.  The South is fuelled by etiquette and you don’t have anything if you ain't got good manners.  A reply of “Yes, Ma’am.” or “Thank you, sir.” is ingrained into children the moment they can talk.
I imagine similar nuances of Christianity were in Mosul, where Christianity was a part of life for thousands of years.
So for sweet Myriam to want forgiveness above revenge is no surprise.  It’s a perfect witness to the truest understanding of Christ’s teachings.

If you would like to help the refugees from Qaraqosh, Mosel, and around the world, you can contribute to IOCC
You can help the victims of poverty and conflicts around the world by making a financial gift to the IOCC International Emergency Response Fund which will provide immediate relief, as well as long-term support through the provision of emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need. To make a gift, please visit iocc.org or call toll free at 1-877-803-IOCC (4622), or mail a check or money order payable to IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, MD 21297.
IOCC is the official humanitarian aid agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America. Since its inception in 1992, IOCC has delivered $534 million in relief and development programs to families and communities in more than 50 countries. IOCC is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 140 churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy, and a member of InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.–based secular and faith-based organizations working to improve the lives of the world's most poor and vulnerable populations. To learn more about IOCC, visit iocc.org.

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