EDMONTON – Christianity was born in the Middle East and yet today it's fast disappearing from the region. Extremism, political instability and lack of jobs are driving Christian families away from the region.
Canadians should support projects that will allow Middle Eastern Christians to stay in their lands, said Carl Hetu, director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA).
As well as providing humanitarian assistance, CNEWA runs a variety of projects in the region, from sponsorships for needy children, to building churches, to clean water projects.
Christians make up 12 per cent of the population of Syria but now are leaving because of the civil war between Sunni Muslims and the Alawi community, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
Many Iraqi Christians who sought refugee in Syria following the Iraq War now don't have anywhere to go.
"Christians are caught in the middle," lamented Hetu, who spoke at the annual national convention of the Catholic Women's League at Shaw Conference Centre Aug. 13. "If we don't walk with them, nobody will walk with them."
Sunni Muslims affected by the civil war are being helped by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Christians are helping their own, noted Hetu. "Christians need our support."
Hetu lauded the Catholic Women's League for financially supporting a centre for children and youth in Jerusalem. The CWL has given more than $20,000 to the centre, which will allow it to provide education and care to about 100 needy children.
"When you support projects like this you are creating jobs (which will allow Christians to stay in their neighbourhoods)," Hetu told the convention.
He also announced that many Middle Eastern Christians would be coming to Canada in the next four years "because many dioceses will be welcoming them to Canada."