Friday, August 30, 2013

Not Out of Mind

On August 27th, John C. Nienstedt, Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, issued a Letter to Clergy, Religious and Lay Faithful Regarding Violence in Egypt:

I thought it would be helpful for you to know that both the Bishops’ Conference, through its Committee on International Justice and Peace, as well as the Catholic Relief Services have been working behind the scenes to address the violent situation of political unrest in Egypt which has, as you know, also been tragic for the Christian community there.

The Committee on International Justice and Peace has contacted U.S. government to convey the Holy Father’s emphasis on the need for “peace, dialogue and reconciliation.” It has urged the United States to work with the international community to support efforts by Egyptians to strengthen public order and the rule of law as well as to build an inclusive democracy respectful of human rights and religious freedom.

In a letter to Secretary of State Kerry, the Committee has expressed a special concern for the Christian community in Egypt, noting that extremists have scapegoated Christians, blaming them for the current state of affairs, and viciously have attacked Christian churches, institutions and communities, destroying property and terrorizing people. The letter also mentioned that the Church in Egypt reports that many of their Muslim neighbors have come to their defense.

Catholic Relief Services is continuing to represent the Church in the U.S. as well as the Catholic community on the ground in Egypt. They are working with the Church in Egypt to help those in greatest need who are often most impacted by violence and political unrest. CRS is currently helping to rehabilitate Church schools that have been burned and looted. These schools are known for providing some of the best quality of education that is available to the entire population and thus carry great value for the Church and the entire local community. CRS is mobilizing funds and identifying engineers and other experts who can help respond to current needs and who are available to rehabilitate additional schools and clinics if necessary.

At the same time, CRS is continuing its ongoing programming of response to critical human needs even as the crisis in Egypt unfolds. They are helping to educate thousands of refugee children who have come to Egypt from Syria, Iraq and countries throughout Africa; CRS is aiding young women vulnerable to sex trafficking; it has helped over 15,000 people find work and provide for their families during the recent years of turmoil and economic uncertainty. To foster dialogue, tolerance and acceptance among religions, CRS is continuing a program begun last year with the Coptic Catholic Church. This program has brought together 12,000 Christians and Muslims in dialogue and is all the more important in light of recent events.

As you well know, none of these efforts are being given any attention in the media. Perhaps that is just as well, but I thought it would be important for you to know of the Church’s involvement in trying to reach out to lobby for an end to violence in the area as well as to protect the Christian community there. Please pray that these concrete steps to relieve the distress of so many of the Egyptian people will be successful.

With every good wish, I am Cordially yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

It's encouraging to see that the US bishops are working to bring the issue to the attention of the US government while Catholic Relief Services are helping to relieve the suffering on the ground in Egypt. Recent events in Syria have distracted from whatever scant media attention was being paid to the attacks on Christians and their churches in Egypt. It's good to know that Church leaders are still paying attention.