For seven centuries, the Near East was home to Christians, Jews and followers of other religions, excluding Islam, which had not yet come into being. And over the centuries, although some ancient Christian and Jewish communities were wiped out by the violent spread of various sects called Islamic, indigenous Christians and Jews continued to flourish in the Near East, and even northern Africa. However, for the past hundred years, Christians and Jews (except in what is now called Israel) have been ethnically cleansed from these regions to such an extent that they now have what is, unthinkably, more or less a token presence (if that) in their own ancestral lands.
This is not a part of Christian history--and Christian current events--we can forget. And these are not Christians we should forget. We especially cannot forget them if we belong to Catholic or Eastern Orthodox traditions. Anglo-Saxon Protestants may be forgiven for their ignorance of these communities, but no-one who loves the Holy Mother of God, so revered in the East, has an excuse.
We are women, very often poor women: students, Singles, young mothers, artists. As we watch and--I hope--spread the news, we may feel helpless. We want to help. But what can we do? We can pray, fast, go to Mass and, very importantly, give alms today. It doesn't matter if what we give is akin to the widow's mite. If all we Christian women--women rich and poor--gave just the cost of what today's food would cost us--that would be a tremendous sum. If you eat nothing today, offering your hunger pangs and headache for our suffering brothers and sisters, how much will you save? Five dollars? Ten pounds? Send it to CNEWA, choosing the country where you wish the money to be sent, e.g. Iraq. Let lazy armchair warriors snarl on the internet about bombs and Obama and whatnot. We women will send bread.
Earlier it troubled me that Christians' donations were being used not solely to help penniless Christians but also their poor Muslim neighbours. This made me cross because my first feeling is that Muslims have their own charities to help Muslims, and nobody but Christians seems to care about Christians, and even then, we privileged Western Christians are very neglectful of our own, or think only of central and south Africa and Latin America. (My amazement when I discovered there is a fund in Germany to help the poor of the former DDR and other former Iron Bloc countries!) However, then I heard of how grateful and amazed the poor Muslims are that the Christian aid groups feed them too, and I realized that this can help create love and respect in the now-majority Muslims for the now-few Christians in their midst. And changing hearts is just as important as feeding empty Christian tummies and giving shelter to Christian heads.
If you have an affinity for the Society of Jesus, Mike Swan at the Toronto Catholic Register tells me that the Jesuit Refugee Service is a very experienced and effective provider of aid. And in the UK, it may be most natural to give money to Aid to the Church in Need UK.
At 6:15 PM British Summer Time, I will be praying at Mass in Edinburgh's St. Cuthbert's Chapel.* If all "Seraphic Singles" readers would join me in prayer at the same time for the Middle Eastern Christians, that would be truly awesome: a real prayer storm. I will be praying especially for the safety of the girls, young women and nuns. (CNEWA Canada has a special fund for a orphanage for Iraqi Christian girls run by nuns.)
Update: Okay, done it: put our money where my mouth is. I'm sorry it's not more, but on the Day of Judgement, I will be able to raise my head for at least a moment.
*Note to Scots: It is unclear if Mass will begin at 6 or 6:15, so I recommend coming for 6.
UPDATE: Mass is indeed at 6