Open Letter to President Obama

                                                                                                                          September 30, 2011

Dear Mr. President:

I am terribly disappointed with the rebuff of Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai who is the Catholic leader of the Maronites worldwide and one of the most respected Christian leaders in Lebanon and the Middle East.  The motto of his coat of arms reflects his personality and is call for “communion and love.” He has been trying to achieve what no other Middle Eastern political or a religious leader has been able to do:  meet others with respect and love, not take sides, and build bridges to a future that will hopefully lead to peace and happiness for all people in the Middle East.

Muslim and Christian groups have all found in him a real father, a Patriarch.  Because he has spoken out expressing his concern for the future of Christians in the Middle East, he has been rebuffed by you and your Administration.  It is pure hypocrisy for the leader of the free world to refuse to meet with Patriarch Rai especially since the Prime Minister of Israel can come and completely disregard essential parts of a peace plan and still be given a warm welcome, and the King of Saudi Arabia, where Christians have no freedom whatsoever, can be received with highest honors. Mr. President, you are ignoring the plight of Christians in the Middle East!

Patriarch Rai’s warning about the future of Christians in Syria is not taboo. Christians are in a state of peril in the same way that Christians of Iraq were a few years ago when two thirds of them migrated out of the country and are still not protected to this day. To say the Patriarch supports dictators and sides with terrorists is pure nonsense.  With his own unique charisma, Patriarch Rai has reached out to all Lebanese with whom he has to live side-by-side. It is a beautiful outreach, one that is uniquely his, without having to be beholden to anyone.  He speaks with love and tempers the divisive, hateful talk of many. He gives hope

A new day is dawning in the Middle East.  The Arab Spring is happening with little vision for the summer that will ensue.  Mr. President, you do not have to agree on everything with Patriarch Rai, but there is no need to avoid or rebuff him.  By doing so, you are showing your disrespect for him and for all Christians of the Middle East.

 + Gregory J Mansour

Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn

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