The Vicar of Jordan, Most Rev. Selim Sayegh, spoke to CNA in Amman last week about the tensions in the Middle East as well as the diminishing number of Christians in the area. He noted that Catholics can assist those struggling in the region by praying for peace because “true peace comes from the Lord,” not Obama, or Israeli/Palestinian leaders.
Sayegh, who has served Jordan as an auxiliary bishop for 27 years, addressed the plight of Christians in the Middle East, particularly the ones living in Iraq. He noted that the while the situation isn’t desperate, less Christians are living in the area than is considered ideal.
“Why,” the bishop asked, are not only Christians but also Muslims leaving the area? “All of them, they are looking for peace…they want peace for their children,” he answered.
“Once peace is established into these countries...no one would think about leaving.”
He zeroed in on Iraq asking why anyone would leave – it’s “one of the richest countries in the world,” however “there is no hope.”
When Iraqi Christians leave, they go to Jordan or Syria, the vicar explained. But, “for the most part, the Christians don’t intend to become established in Jordan,” but they only “stay until they can obtain a visa to the United States, Europe or Australia.”
“It’s a very sad situation,” the bishop lamented, explaining that many of the Iraqis were educated, economically well-off people in their country, but when they leave, all of a sudden, “poof, and they have nothing.”
Bishop Sayegh said that Catholics around the world can help improve the situation in the Middle East not only by being “good citizens,” but also by praying for peace.
“Pray for peace because true peace comes from the Lord, it doesn’t come from Obama or from Netanyahu or from Abu Mazen,” but rather from the “Lord of peace,” the bishop remarked.
Reflecting on Christians’ role in the peace process, Bishop Sayegh said that they have their place, but that they are called to play a role by living out the faith. “That’s why every day in our churches we pray for peace,” since God is the only one who is “able to change the hearts” and to “arrive at peace” in the region.