Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai warned that the Christian presence in the Middle East is shrinking and church leaders “are called to face the winds that blow in our homelands.”

The assessment by the patriarch of Maronite Catholics during a meeting of the Middle East Council of Churches executive committee Sept. 18 underscored the dire reality facing Christians in the tumultuous region.

“The ship threatened by strong winds and waves” that is sinking symbolizes “the witnessing church in the sea of our Middle Eastern countries troubled by the winds of conflicts and wars, political, economic, financial and livelihood crises, and the corona epidemic,” Rai said.

The cardinal also explained at the meeting he hosted at Bkerke, the Maronite patriarchate north of Beirut, that the threat “reached its climax” in Lebanon with the catastrophic double explosion in the port of Beirut Aug. 4. The disaster left nearly 200 people dead, injured another 6,000, and displaced more than 300,000 people.

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