Arab Christians Have Lost Easter Before. Here’s What They Learned.
Whether COVID-19 or ISIS, believers from Iraq, Syria, and Egypt know “neither plague nor persecution can snuff out the church of Christ.”
Christians around the world are about to lose their usual Easter celebration—the highlight of most congregations’ annual life together.
Yes, there will be a livestream. Their pastor will likely call them. They may even chat on Zoom with friends and family.
But it will be different. The community of believers has been sundered by the new coronavirus. And threatened with it is Christ’s body, his bride, his temple for his presence in the world.
If there is any consolation, it is that this is not the first time.
“There are forces of nature—and forces of man—that challenge our ability to experience the presence of Christ,” said Gregory Mansour, the Maronite bishop of Brooklyn.
“[COVID-19] is different from persecution. But it is the same.”
A born-again Catholic led into personal relationship with Christ by the Navigators, Mansour later reconnected with his ancient Lebanon-based church. His clerical colleagues there received thousands of ISIS-fleeing Christians from Syria and Iraq.
“There was a deliberate desire to obliterate churches, hymnals, prayers, and people,” he said. “The only thing we had left was a spiritual communion.”
Though his own diocese is far removed from those events, it remains in the epicenter of America’s COVID-19 outbreak. One female doctor in his church is serving on the front lines, reminding Mansour of the plague of St. Cyprian (249–262 AD): that when all others ran away, Christians ran in to help the suffering.
Trying to find solace for his people in light of losing Easter, Mansour turned for inspiration to St. John-Marie Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests.
Vianney grew up during France’s anti-clerical Reign …
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