Another cause that deserves to go viral

Categories: Editorial

Joe Towalski
Editor

Middle East Christians need our prayers and humanitarian assistance

Who would have ever thought that dumping water over your head could be such a successful fundraiser and awareness-builder?

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A woman who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar sits with a child inside a tent at a camp in Syria’s northern town of Qamishli Aug. 17. – CNS photo/Rodi Said, Reuters

In the last month, the ALS Association has collected upwards of $94 million through the Ice Bucket Challenge to help find a cure for the debilitating illness commonly known a Lou Gehrig’s disease. Countless videos of people accepting the challenge have been posted to Facebook, with some people — Catholics included — choosing to donate to alternative organizations that don’t fund embryonic stem cell research.

Raising funds to find a cure for the disease is certainly a noble cause that deserves our attention and financial support. Of course, other worthy causes also need attention, and Catholics will have a chance to support one of these in September.

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked bishops across the country to take a special collection for the humanitarian needs and pastoral support of persecuted Christians and other victims of violence in the Middle East on the weekend of Sept. 6-7 or Sept. 13-14.

The needs are great. The Islamic State terrorist group has forced Iraqi Christians from their homes — many with little more than the clothes on their backs — and has threatened them with death if they don’t leave. Christian towns and villages have been burned and their churches destroyed. Meanwhile, innocent victims of war in Syria and the Gaza Strip also are struggling under difficult conditions that include shortages of food, clean water, shelter and medical supplies.

The Middle East is home to some of the oldest Christian communities in the world, dating back nearly 2,000 years. The news of what’s happening in the Middle East, sad as it is, also is an opportunity to learn more about the history of these Christian communities and their importance to the life of the church and the region’s future.

It also affords an opportunity to pray for those who are suffering and lend a helping hand through our contributions to the upcoming special collection, the proceeds of which will be given to Catholic Relief Services and other Catholic agencies to help with the most pressing needs.

Perhaps we Catholics around the country can start a new video trend. Consider posting a video to your Facebook page announcing your commitment to support this important collection and pray for the victims of violence, and then challenge a few of your friends to do the same. No bucket or ice water is required.

Let’s not squander the opportunity to make a small sacrifice for our brothers and sisters in faith and encourage others to do the same. A few dollars can make a huge difference in the lives of those who face very dire situations. There are many causes that deserve to go viral, and this is certainly one of them.