Monsignor Kozar visits with patients at the Martha Schmouny Clinic in Erbil, Iraq, in April 2016. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
A displaced child, pictured in March 2017, walks through a refugee camp in Zahleh, Lebanon. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
Churches work to meet the needs of displaced families in Ain Kawa, near Erbil. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
Good Shepherd Sisters serve refugees in Deir el Ahmar, Lebanon. (photo: John E. Kozar/CNEWA)
As president of CNEWA, I travel a lot and I am often asked two questions: “Will there ever be peace in the Middle East?” and “Are all the efforts and good works of the church making a difference there?” Allow me to share some personal reflections with you that bring these two questions into focus.
First of all, peace is a very relative term and some might suggest “perfect” peace can never be, since the lack of peace or imperfect peace is a reflection of our fallen state. True peace, then, would only occur at the end of time, when we are called to be in the full presence of our God.
But peace in the Middle East is certainly possible and the church forcefully proclaims this and works to bring it to reality. Through our call to follow Christ, we accept his mandate to live the Gospel and to perform works of charity and mercy. This is at the heart of our Catholic presence in the Middle East.
Our brothers and sisters who profess Christ and live out his Gospel in this area of the world are heralds of peace and love, where darkness and despair have become the norm. Even though their numbers continue to dwindle, their presence is powerful and must endure.
This is where CNEWA comes into the picture. We are privileged to accompany the Eastern Catholic churches in the Middle East. In doing so we sustain the faith life of those committed to Jesus in the midst of war, suffering, poverty, oppression and even persecution and martyrdom.
What a humbling experience for me during my many pastoral visits in the Middle East, when I see firsthand the courageous acts of love and mercy carried out by a dwindling family of Christians — those who are victimized, those who are hungry, those who suffer — for all, Christian or not. Their faith in our Lord is overpowering. Whatever we can do to assist them pales in comparison to their sacrifices. We are honored to accompany them.
Do the good works of the church make a difference and bring us closer to peace in the Middle East? Absolutely and positively. It does not matter how many Christians remain, because Christ is present in each one of them. They share Christ with all, including those of different faith traditions and even with the oppressor and the persecutor.
You should feel very proud as a supporter in prayer and with your financial gifts to Catholic Near East Welfare Association. You help to keep the flame of faith alive in the Middle East — which ultimately helps to share Christ, who is the Prince of Peace, with all peoples of that part of the world.
I remember one visit to that region, and meeting a woman who had become a Catholic and was marked for death by her family. She wanted to share this with me: “My God, Jesus,” she said, “is a God of love and peace.”
What a beautiful profession of faith.
Yes, there can be peace, and there will be peace in the Middle East.
May God bless you and may he bless all our family in the Middle East.