Overriding all the public ceremonies dominating Pope Francis’s trip to Washington this month will be his growing concern about the bloody turmoil in the Middle East that has set off waves of refugees and threatens the few remaining Christians living in the region. It is a topic that will surface when he addresses the Congress and when he meets with President Obama.
For more than 2,000 years, Christians have been a significant part of the religiously complex Middle East, living side by side with Muslims and Jews, but that is changing and with it a growing fear that they no longer will be at home in the region. It seems that the political leaders are impotent in finding any resolution to the crisis, affecting not only Christians, but Muslims and Jews.
Religious leaders are finding the courage of their beliefs and are beginning to develop leadership roles to confront the seemingly endless violence and mayhem. Terrorist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) mask criminality under the guise of conservative Islam, a convenient pretext to establish they are operating with the blessings of a God with a rigid code even for believers who don’t follow their narrowly defined tenets.