Dear Friends and Supporters of Nasarean,
Even though this is an appeal for “Giving Tuesday,” I would first like to make it a “thank you” Tuesday, for all your support, both temporal and spiritual. It is not being over-pious to say that your prayer support is critical, both for my ministry, but also for all the people we help. As you have heard me say many times, whenever I am in one of the countries where we help, or meet persecuted Christians from other places, the very first thing they request is prayer. For all who consider themselves believers, that should be obvious, but sadly, sometimes it is not.
I thank all our donors, but always with a special word of gratitude to those who give regularly. Nasarean is a very small charity, but it is very focused, which is truly making a difference.
Since last year, I managed to finally get back to Iraq after all the Covid difficulties and, I have to say, that, thanks to your generosity, I was very encouraged to see how the businesses are doing. This is one of the advantages of being “small but beautiful:” that we can inspect and supervise the places where our help goes. I was personally able to visit a number of businesses on the Nineveh Plain and they are, thanks be to God, all doing well. The situation is still very tough for Christians in Iraq - ISIS is reforming, the political situation is chaotic and the towns and villages on the Nineveh Plain are surrounded by Iranian-backed Shia militia. Yet, despite this, when given an opportunity to start or strengthen a business, the Christians want to stay in their homeland.
My visit to Lebanon in June was a struggle. All the people, not just Christians, are suffering from political and economic chaos. Most of Lebanon is without power for 22 hours a day - pause and think how you would live and run a business in those conditions. Yet, once again, with a little help, people are trying. In all the lands of the Middle East, the great danger is the emigration of Christians from the region - the Christian population of Lebanon is decreasing rapidly - the cradle of Christianity could soon be empty without the kind of help we provide.
Much of the year has seen me speak, as an invited guest, at conferences and symposia, and continuing media work, to alert the world to the devastating persecution of Christians, as the media continues to ignore the story.
Several exciting things have happened, or are happening, to develop the work of Nasarean. First is our “Icon Project”: placing an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Mother of Persecuted Christians,” in shrines designated and blessed by the local bishop. As I said at the beginning of this letter, prayer is central. This year, through your support, and the donations of one or two individuals, we placed shrines in London and Massachusetts, and at the shrine blessing in Massachusetts, we experienced the world premiere of the “Mass for Persecuted Christians,” composed by Paul Jernberg, who has become a great friend of Nasarean. This Mass will, we hope, be broadcast on EWTN at some point in 2023. We hope to place several more icons next year, both in Europe and the United States.
We are also developing cooperation with the French charity, “SOS Chretiens,” who will soon be opening as a 501(c)3 in the US, with the name “SOS Christians of the East.” This is a wonderful charity that sends young people to work in several countries, including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. Through our cooperation with this group, we hope to support our first businesses in Egypt in 2023 and renew support to Syria, which we had to temporarily suspend due to the difficulty of sending assistance securely.
Whenever I doubt this mission, I receive a word, either from Holy Scripture or from a person, who confirms me in this work. There is no doubt that times are tough; the economic crisis and the effects of the war in the Ukraine are hurting us all. I was in Ukraine, in Lviv, in April, seeing the struggles of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, accompanying a journalist. Despite the tough times we are experiencing in the “free” West, they are nothing compared to our brethren. Donations are down a little this year, therefore I make a special appeal for you, in whatever way you can, to support this year’s “Giving Tuesday,” but also to prayerfully consider becoming a regular donor.
This year we are focusing specifically on supporting businesses in Iraq and Lebanon, either recent start-ups, or businesses that have begun and need our support to thrive. Once again, this can make the difference between a family staying in their homeland, where Christians have been for 2000 years, or leaving and adding to the world migration crisis.
In Lebanon, in addition to paying a small stipend to our part-time coordinator, we will support, once again, our friend Sister Souraya and the convent and icon studio. The icon in the London shrine came from this convent in Zouk. Our friend Joe, who runs the “Grizzly Gym” in downtown Beirut, which was badly damaged by the port explosion last year, needs additional help to keep his business running - he has 9 employees - so 9 families will be assisted (see his message to you all, recorded in June: youtube.com/shorts/M5eonEXb0hI).
Also in Lebanon, we will be helping for the first time, the carpentry business of Fadi Hashem, who supports his parents and sister. His father, at 90 years old, is no longer able to run the business, which has 4 full-time employees and 2 part-time (7 families helped) - so to ensure stability and a future, Nasarean is offering our support.
In Iraq, we will support two start-ups: A food kiosk outside the shrine of St. Barbara, in the town of Karamlesh, which I have visited several times. Occupied and badly damaged by ISIS, it is slowly recovering. The kiosk is owned by Bassan Slewa, who has 7 in his family. We also hope to support a general goods store in Qaraqosh, owned by two partners, Moayad Bakter, who has 6 in his family, and Melad Behnam, who has a family of 3.
We have set a target of $25,000 for these projects and, through the extraordinary generosity of one donor, we have already received $11,000!
Once again, I truly thank you for all your support, and ask God’s blessing on you and your families as we head towards the great Feast of the Birth of the Lord,