George Marlin presented with Franciscan’s highest award
STEUBENVILLE — In accepting the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s highest honor, the Poverello Medal, George Marlin on Tuesday issued a call to arms to Catholics and Christians to get the western world to wake up and deal with Christian persecution across the Middle East.
The Poverello Medal is named after St. Francis of Assisi, the university’s patron saint, who was called “Il Poverello” — “The Little Poor One.” The steel-cast medal commemorates organizations and organizers who have imitated the actions and examples of St. Francis by their love and service to the poor.
The event was held in the Gentile Gallery in the J.C. Williams Center on the university campus.
Saying he was humbled to receive the medal that once was presented to St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta (in 1976), Marlin offered details of persecution that has been taking place across the region, even in Iraq while American armed forces occupied the country from 2003 through 2014.
He said the medal honors not only the organization he chairs, Aid to the Church in Need USA, but the staff and board of trustees and “the brave men, women and children who quite literally are battling for their lives in the land that gave birth to our faith.”
He said the West, including the U.S., does not pay attention even to the statistics — 10 million people are homeless, 500,000 have died, 2.4 million children aren’t going to school in the five-year Syrian civil war — let alone persecution that meets the United Nations definition of genocide.
Women are enslaved and attacked, he said.
“Where are the feminists? We hear nothing,” he said.
ISIS is seeking to destroy every remnant of Christianity from across the Middle East, where the foundations of Christianity were laid eight centuries before the rise of Islam. He noted it was in Syria that the term Christianity was first used and that the first headquarters of the church was in Syria.
He said the horror stories can be summarized by a meeting a few years ago with a bishop from Syria. Marlin said he asked the bishop what his most pressing need was.
“A cheese-making machine,” came the answer. Every time he tells the story, the listeners either laugh nervously or give a puzzled look. Much of the bishop’s flock has tried to make it into Lebanon, and many are stuck in the mountains along the border. They have their goats with them and winter was approaching and they needed to make cheese just to survive.
“When you ask a bishop what he most needs for his flock and he says ‘a cheese-making machine,’ that tells you what you need to know in a microcosm.”
He noted that after much pressure from organizations such as his, and the Knights of Columbus and some members of Congress, the Obama administration grudgingly admitted there is genocide of Christians going on in the Middle East. He said Secretary of State John Kerry made the declaration one quiet Friday afternoon and then nothing has been said or done about it since.
Marlin said all the U.N. and other international aid going to refugee camps in the MIddle East does no good to reach Christians, who are afraid to go to the Muslim occupied and run camps.
Rather, Christians are holing up in churches they can make their way to. Aid to the Church in Need helps with everything from shelter to counseling, vaccinations, dietary supplements, setting up Quonset huts for schools and camp hygiene.
“We go through the bishops to provide the aid where there are 1,000 people suddenly squashed into a church. If it is not done by us, it is not being done by anybody. Aid is not reaching these people,” he said.
He repeated a statement by ISIS in its online magazine saying, “We will conquer your Rome, break up you crosses and enslave your women” by permission of Allah. He said ISIS has a template in Hitler’s playbook, by moving rapidly and with brutality.
“ISIS wages uncompromising war for religious and territorial cleansing of Christians and other minorities from the Middle East,” Marlin said. “Our task as Roman Catholics and Christians, our call to arms, is to get the Western world to respond. It must act to halt the annihilation of Christians from the Middle East. Because if not us, then who?”
Asked during an interview if he held out hope for the next American president, Marlin said, “I am a New Yorker. I used to be the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. I knew Donald Trump. I’ve met Hillary Clinton. I have dealt with Donald Trump. I am not enamored with either one.”
He then quipped, “I generally write in the name of the greatest New York governor who should have been president in 1928, Alfred E. Smith.”