Pope Francis and the U.S. bishops have already labeled the atrocities faced by Christians in the Middle East "a form of genocide."
The Islamic State has driven more than 150,000 Christians out of Iraq alone.
The violence against Christians is as systematic as it is barbaric - Church leaders are assassinated, believers are murdered on a mass scale; there is torture, kidnapping for ransom and the systematic rape and sex slavery of Christian women and girls; there are forced conversions to Islam, the destruction of churches, monasteries and cemeteries; and the theft of ordinary families' homes and businesses.
All of this has been documented by Church groups and independent international agencies.
We cannot imagine the reality, but it is true - the Christian presence may one day be extinguished in the lands where the light of faith first burned. And it is unimaginable and unconscionable that our government - along with most of the governments of the Western world - has remained silent while this martyrdom goes on.
The political designation of "genocide" has implications. First it is telling the truth. What is happening to Christians in the Middle East is a crime against humanity that cries out to God.
More than that, a genocide designation gives the international community a moral claim to stop the violence and punish those responsible. It also gives a special status to Christians fleeing the persecution - a right to be treated as refugees, and to reclaim their homes and properties once the violence is ended.
I urge you to join me in this petition, which has been spearheaded by the Knights of Columbus. The Knights have been a beautiful witness of compassion and mercy for the persecuted Church. They have provided more than $5 million in direct assistance to Christians in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.
In these days of Lent, when we remember the way of the Cross that our Lord walked for our redemption, let us pray for the Christians of the Middle East, who are enduring their own slow crucifixion in the land where our Savior was born.
We cannot allow them to be forgotten - in our prayers or in our advocacy. As part of our Lenten sacrifice, let us offer prayers and fasting for the persecuted Church. And let us give alms to help through the Knights of Columbus #ChristiansAtRisk initiative.
Together let us urge Congress to do more to stop the genocide of our brothers and sisters in the faith.
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May our Blessed Mother Mary give hope to those who are suffering and courage for us to stand with them in solidarity and love.
Posted with permission from Angelus: The Tidings Online.