Iraqis inspect the scene of a July 8 suicide bomb attack outside Imam Mohammed shrine near Baghdad. CNS photo/Ali Abbas, EPA

Coming to the table for displaced Christians in Mideast

  • September 5, 2016

TORONTO – When it comes to charitable giving, Carl Hetu believes there is a need to be focused both locally and internationally.

“The world is a global world today and everything happening in the Middle East also affects us here economically, socially and politically,” said Hetu, national director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA). “Beyond that (foreign locales) are members of our family — the Catholic family, the Christian family — that are being attacked right now. So we are appealing to the family, the Catholic family of Toronto, to of course continue to support their good causes locally but at the same time not to forget about the Catholic family members that are suffering so much in Iraq, in Syria and in Egypt.”

While there are dozens of options to choose from when it comes to charitable giving, Hetu would like to see as many people as possible give to the fundraiser Baptism by Fire.

“All of the funds will be going directly to help out all of the Christians that have been displaced” due to the unrest caused by the Islamic State over the past two years, said Hetu. “About 120,000 Christians were forced to move out and they are still to this day displaced.”

Baptism by Fire will take place on Sept. 10 at the Madison Convention Centre in Woodbridge Ont., starting at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $75 with about one-third of that going to CNEWA and Caritas programs in the Middle East. CNEWA, which will receive the bulk of the funding, will provide aid in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon while Caritas is to use its portion to support work in Egypt.

Having raised about $21,000 during last year’s event, organizers have set a goal of $30,000 which will go towards meal programs and health care as well as provide education materials and resources.

Hetu said achieving a sense of security in the Middle East is something North Americans should seriously strive for.

“We absolutely need more praying for peace in the world starting with the Middle East,” he said. “If it gets worse over there it will affect us. We don’t want the world economy and politics to be destabilized any more.”

During the three-hour event attendees will hear live music from the Middle East and brief remarks from Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins and Hetu. The keynote address will be delivered by Fr. Henri Boulad, director of the Jesuit-run Cultural Centre in Alexandria, Egypt.

“Fr. Boulad is a renowned theologian, a scholar and writer, an author,” said Daniel Torchia, a member of the organizing committee. “He is a straight shooter, he tells it like it it is and he is full of life. He is amazing at making the faith comprehensive.”

Boulad is expected “to talk about the situation in Iraq and Syria and the whole lack of stability that has resulted from the Islamic State and that has resulted in the radical Islam or radical terrorist groups,” said Torchia.

“These things are really pushing Catholics, and Christians, away from their ancestral homes,” he said. “We have to protect these people. We are their representatives in North America and we’re the ones that have access to a lot of wealth. We’re the ones who have influence and it is time that we figure out a way to help them achieve some measure of stability and peace.”

Although the event carries with it an inherent Christian theme, it’s open to people of all faiths.

“Anyone in the Archdiocese of Toronto that cares about the plight of Christians in the Middle East, if this cause resonates with you at all then we invite you.”

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