.- Christians in the Middle East are heroic witnesses to the faith, and the U.S. must help ensure they can stay in their homelands in peace, a Maronite bishop who is a leading advocate for the region’s Christians says.

“I think the Christians there are the salt of the earth. And they really are Christ in the midst of the Middle East, with no place to lay His head,” Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn told CNA in an interview.

“In my mind, they’re the heroes of today. They’ve faced down ISIS, they’ve faced down evil, they’ve faced down apathy,” he said. “And it’s still these Christians who are educated, they’re gracious, they’re forgiving.”

Bishop Mansour spoke with CNA ahead of multiple planned advocacy campaigns for Christians of the Middle East.

The annual summit of the advocacy group In Defense of Christians will be held in Washington, D.C. Oct. 24-26. It will focus on “American Leadership and Securing the Future of Christians in the Middle East,” and will feature advocacy especially at the offices of members of Congress.

Special guests will include Catholicos Aram I, of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Patriarch Youssef Absi of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, and Patriarch Moran Mor Bechara Boutros al-Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch.

In Defense of Christians has also planned an action campaign in the days leading up to the summit, where U.S. Christians can pray for persecuted Christians in the Middle East, advocate for them, and support aid organizations that serve religious minorities in the region.

Christians in the region have suffered for generations, but in recent years their plight has become especially dire. Even before the rise of Islamic State in 2014, Christians had been steadily leaving Iraq, and the Syrian civil war had already been boiling for several years.

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Teachings of Christ

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32 ESV)

Christ is Born!

Your Nativity, O Christ our God, * has dawned upon the world the light of knowledge. * for through it, those who served the stars * were taught by a star to worship You, the Sun of Righteousness * and to know You, the Dawn from on high. * Glory to You, O Lord! (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One, * and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. * Angels and shepherds sing His glory; * Wise Men journey with a star * for there is born for us an infant Child, the God Who is before all ages. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Even a pious person is not immune to spiritual sickness if he does not have a wise guide -- either a living person or a spiritual writer. This sickness is called _prelest_, or spiritual delusion, imagining oneself to be near to God and to the realm of the divine and supernatural. Even zealous ascetics in monasteries are sometimes subject to this delusion, but of course, laymen who are zealous in external struggles (podvigi) undergo it much more frequently. Surpassing their acquaintances in struggles of prayer and fasting, they imagine that they are seers of divine visions, or at least of dreams inspired by grace. In every event of their lives, they see special intentional directions from God or their guardian angel. And then they start imagining that they are God's elect, and often try to foretell the future. The Holy Fathers armed themselves against nothing so fiercely as against this sickness -- prelest.

Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky