In these days before Christmas, a delegation from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and the Conference of Bishops and Representatives of the Middle Eastern Apostolic Churches in Australia and New Zealand, comprised of seven Bishops, has returned from a pastoral visit to refugees in Lebanon (Beirut) and internally displaced people in Northern Erbil, Kurdistan, from Monday 15 until Friday 19 December 2014.
The aim of this mission was to stand in solidarity and encouragement in faith with the thousands of besieged Christians and other ethnic minorities in these embattled regions of cradle Christian origin. 
For example, since June 2014, more than 125,000 Christians from Mosul and the Plain of Nineveh in Northern Iraq have fled the atrocities brutally imposed on them by I.S militants. They were given the impossible choices to leave, pay a huge levy, convert to Islam or face death.
This has led to an unprecedented mass exodus of Christians from their ancient home lands in recent times. In attempting to escape death, their Churches, ancient monasteries and homes have been destroyed or looted by the militants. They could take nothing with them. There is doubt that they can return.
The Australian delegation has encountered these victims and others of terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and forced displacement in the refugee camps of Beirut and of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. 
Their visits were universally welcomed by a traumatised people, many of whom feel abandoned by the Western World and especially Western Churches.
In the visiting of these settlements, the Australian Bishops delegation listened to their testimonies of fear and terror, prayed with them and offered Christmas gifts and humanitarian assistance.
As an ongoing practical gesture of solidarity, the Australian Bishops will assist up to 1,000 refugee and displaced families with their most urgent needs from this Christmas to Easter 2015. The local bishops and priests from the region and Caritas Lebanon will assist in the distribution of this financial assistance. 
The Australian Bishops delegation has called on all Australians during the Christmas and New Year celebrations to keep this situation for displaced Christians in the Middle East in their thoughts, prayers and generosity. 
After all, it was from this area of the world that 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ was born as the hope and joy of all of us. And today, we turn to Him, as the constant source of consolation and happiness to all people, especially the poor and the marginalised, especially in the Middle East.
For all media enquiries, please contact the Maronite Eparchy of Australia on 02 8831 0000. 



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