July 30, 2014 – Excerpted from “Put Out Into the Deep”, Bishop DiMarzio’s column in The Tablet:
Last week, I received visits from several bishops from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Nigeria. During these visits, it became more clear that the presence of Christians in the Middle East and Africa is threatened now in a way that has never happened. The success of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is one that truly foretells the fate of Christians in the Middle East.
Recently, it was reported, and was confirmed by the bishops who visited me, that the Islamist extremists give three options to Christians whom they encounter in the lands that they have conquered: one, convert to Islam; two, pay a tax which seems impossible to pay; or three, leave. There is a fourth option, however, which is to stay and face the sword. Truly, it is disappointing that the civilized world has abandoned these Christian minorities in the places where Christianity flourished before Islam even was a thought. That is the situation in the world today, however.
The first bishop to visit was Bishop Elias Sleman, a Maronite Bishop of the Eparchy of Latakia, which covers the middle portion of Syria, and who also serves as pastor for the Marionites in that particular area. This area has many Christians. In fact, there is a place called the Valley of Christians, where the presence of Christians has been constant for many centuries. Unfortunately, according to Bishop Sleman, it may soon be empty. He outlined three major challenges and concerns.
Read the full text of the Bishop’s column on The Tablet website.