Plight of Middle East Christians is the Greatest Tragedy Since World War IIThe Middle East is suffering a “Way of the Cross” that is the greatest tragedy since World War Two, Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham said in his Lenten message. He said the Church, despite its efforts, is having difficulty meeting the growing needs it faces in the region. “We fail in front of the suffering of our people in all walks of life, Christians and Muslims. It’s a universal suffering,” he said. “We as pastors are with our people, at their side, in front of them, behind them,” Patriarch Laham said, adding that it is “as if we wash the feet of those who are suffering as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.” “We are in the fifth year of the Way of the Cross,” especially in Syria, Iraq and the Palestinian territories and also in Lebanon, “which is affected in a tragic way by war, which rages around it,” Patriarch Laham said. He continued: “This is a tragedy of the greatest tragedies of history — not just in the region, but in the world — since World War Two. “We call on all citizens and our children (to work together and with Pope Francis) to not let the flame of hope be extinguished in your hearts.” The Syrian-born prelate pointed out that Lebanon has accepted waves of displaced people and refugees: from Palestine since 1949, from Syria since 2011 and, currently and in stages, from Iraq. Lebanon is now hosting more than 1.5 million refugees — mostly Syrians and an increasing flow of Iraqi Christians — putting a strain on the country’s infrastructure and resources for its existing population of around four million people. “How many have heard about all the stories of suffering,” he said. He noted that although the Church encourages the faithful in the region to remain and hold on “with ropes of hope and faith and surrender to the will of God,” at the same time, the decision whether to stay or to leave one’s country “is a personal decision and responsibility of every individual and every family.” MORE