.- Christians in the Middle East are heroic witnesses to the faith, and the U.S. must help ensure they can stay in their homelands in peace, a Maronite bishop who is a leading advocate for the region’s Christians says.

“I think the Christians there are the salt of the earth. And they really are Christ in the midst of the Middle East, with no place to lay His head,” Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn told CNA in an interview.

“In my mind, they’re the heroes of today. They’ve faced down ISIS, they’ve faced down evil, they’ve faced down apathy,” he said. “And it’s still these Christians who are educated, they’re gracious, they’re forgiving.”

Bishop Mansour spoke with CNA ahead of multiple planned advocacy campaigns for Christians of the Middle East.

The annual summit of the advocacy group In Defense of Christians will be held in Washington, D.C. Oct. 24-26. It will focus on “American Leadership and Securing the Future of Christians in the Middle East,” and will feature advocacy especially at the offices of members of Congress.

Special guests will include Catholicos Aram I, of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Patriarch Youssef Absi of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and Patriarch Moran Mor Bechara Boutros al-Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch.

In Defense of Christians has also planned an action campaign in the days leading up to the summit, where U.S. Christians can pray for persecuted Christians in the Middle East, advocate for them, and support aid organizations that serve religious minorities in the region.

Christians in the region have suffered for generations, but in recent years their plight has become especially dire. Even before the rise of Islamic State in 2014, Christians had been steadily leaving Iraq, and the Syrian civil war had already been boiling for several years.

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Teachings of Christ

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:16-18 ESV)

Exaltation of the Cross

Save Your people, O Lord, and bless Your inheritance; * grant victory to Your Church over her enemies * and protect Your commonwealth by Your Cross. (Troparion - Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Willingly lifted up on the Cross, O Christ God, * bestow Your compassions upon the new commonwealth that bears Your name. * By your power grant joy to Your Church, * granting her victory over her enemies. * May she have your Cross as the weapon of peace * and the invincible ensign of victory. (Kontakion - Tone 4)

The Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14th.

Random Proverb

"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest." (Proverbs 6:6-8 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Good and God-loving men accuse people of something bad when they are present, but when they are absent they not only refrain from accusing them, but do not permit others to do so when they attempt to speak of them.

From St. Anthony the Great (170 Texts on Saintly Life no. 30) REF: Fr. Seraphim Rose, "Letters"