HISTORY OF THE MISSION OF HOPE AND CHARITY
UPDATED AS OF October 28, 2015
In 2014 I began working with Archbishop Aquila on the problem of the plight of Christians in the Middle East. On August 11, 2014, together with 15 religious leaders from across the spectrum of the Abrahamic faiths, we launched the PLACE Initiative (Peace, Love, and Co-Existence Among the Children of Abraham – see: http://archden.org/prayer-peace/). Next was an Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast on May 15, 2015, when Bishop Zaidan, Archbishop Aquila, over 37 Religious Christian leaders, and more than 250 people came to share in our awareness-raising objective prayer breakfast that Friday morning. That day, even though we told people to only come and learn about the plight against Christians and then to tell a friend about the genocides that are taking place against Christians, people still gave over 23 thousand dollars in that one hour-and-a-half. This was a strong statement; these people who came from different Christian-based churches, both apostolic and evangelical as well as non-denominational people, wanted to say, “We are here for the love of Christ and in support for our persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East and we want to help.”
The Rise of the Question and the Need of the new Mission:
Not once in my life had I ever planned to form a Mission or run a non-profit organization nor did I plan to raise money for any cause as I did not want to be around non-profit, financial affairs knowing especially that such a thing might run into a conflict with the parish responsibility in case of lack of support and coordination. The development at the prayer breakfast was strong enough that it changed my attitude completely towards such a possibility. Checks kept coming in and reached nearly 30 thousand dollars including what we raised in May at the prayer breakfast. I started meeting with my Church Council, my stewardship council, John F. Medved (one of the founding members and a great believer in this mission), and Peter Boyles, who is our media messenger carrying this mission to the hearts and minds of every American he can reach through his daily morning radio show.
All the individuals I mentioned above are very supportive and very positive about the mission that now has taken off and is making a big difference in giving hope to many Christian families from Iraq and Syria who are in Lebanon.
Mr. Boyles and I went to Lebanon with Senator Sam H. Zakhem on June 2-20, 2015. There we encountered most of the religious and political leaders of that country. We met with Patriarch Rai, the Maronite Patriarch, and learned about the great need for help and assistance; however, we discovered that, at the same time and due to the ongoing suffering and the greatness of the tragedy of the Christians and other people as well, there is not a clear vision of both long-term and short-term needs, nor is there a clear understanding as to what the future of Christians there will be in a couple of years from now. There are no present solutions nor dynamics for a strategy, not even a mechanism of communication to tell the story of these many Christians.
Mr. Boyles and I decided, after we had met the refugees in St. Elias Maronite Church of Jesr El-Wati in Beirut, to act by giving 180 gifts to children, hundreds of diapers for babies, and food packages for hundreds of families. We also gave this type of emergency package to 200 families on July 25 and 26, 2015. We decided that we need to pursue helping those people and give them hope by telling their story, and showing them mercy by means of equally giving them assistance and raising awareness.
Therefore, we needed to form a group, a future Mission, an organized entity that would carry the name of Saint Rafka (the Saint who lived under the pressure of persecution during the 1860 A.D. Massacres against the Maronite Christians in Mount Lebanon). I finally consented to be the promoter of this effort along with the other members of the group, forming as such the first entity of speakers’ bureau that I like to grow and mature to reach the maximum people for both awareness and aids. This is how the Formation of “St Rafka Mission of Hope and Mercy, Fr Andre Mahanna Relief Effort Group in Support of Christian Refugees from Syria and Iraq in Lebanon.” Took place.
This group has two branches: One is the leading group in the USA based in Colorado. The second one is a group based in Lebanon. Also, there is a recent group “The Beggars of the Mission of Hope and Charity,” which is comprised of patriotic persons who know the truth, who have good credibility, and are experts in certain areas, and who are faithful to the broader sense of Catholic and Christian Faith, and have intense passion and compassion. They will seek help from individuals and groups to raise money for awareness and field humanitarian assistance.
PROJECTS: (September 2015)
September – Month of Awareness and Support for the Saint Rafka Mission of raising Awareness, and supporting the Mission of Hope and Mercy.
Explanation: I cannot thank John Medved and Peter Boyles enough for their leading genuine Christian love, dedication, and the many sacrifices that they are making to show support to the Christian cause in the Middle East. They both have been and are supporting my humble work here At Saint Rafka Church and in Lebanon.
Lebanon is a base destination to reach all Christians in the Middle East. We are raising awareness to keep Lebanon safe because it is the country that is now a refuge for millions of refugees: Christians, Muslims, Kurds, Yazedees, and others.
I am most thankful to the Councils and the people of my parish of Saint Rafka, the entity from which I can never separate from our mission in the Middle East. My little flock here is generously sharing whatever they can from time, talent and their little treasure, but especially they are allowing me, their little pastor to do this work of hope and mercy.
This being said, we all have to work as one body with different talents, and we all have to contribute to this cause somehow without causing any harm or lack of attention to the immediate needs of Saint Rafka Church itself. I am sure that Saint Rafka Church, being the platform of this mission because of Saint Rafka (personal life story), and because of my being the pastor of this Church, and because of the Ecclesiastic ties of our church to Lebanon and the Eastern Church in general and to Rome in particular, Saint Rafka will benefit from the exposure while this mission is taking place.
In September, we had the Saint Rafka Annual Lebanese Festival on September 12-13, 2015, to use as the opening of the days of awareness for the plight of Christians in the Middle East. On Saturday, September 12, we had a Candle Light Vigil Prayer from 5:30 to 6: 30 PM at Saint Rafka during the festival, on Sunday, September 13, we held a Mass for the Martyrs, and on Friday, September 18, we had a Conference at Regis University which was attended by over 440 people. In all of these events, 2 children and a religious brother, survivors of ISIS atrocities from Iraq, and the reporter from Lebanon were with us.
May the God of all hope and Mercy Bless you all!
Fr Andre Y-Sebastian MAHANNA