Fr Khalil Jaar, who in 2002 received the prestigious Robert PW Pierce Award for Christian Services and Reconciliation, arrived in Malta on 22 Oct for a programme of events to promote the launch of the Persecuted and Forgotten? Report.
Launch of Persecuted and Forgotten?
Fr Jaar was the key speaker at the Malta launch of Persecuted and Forgotten?, which took place on Sat 24 Oct at Sala Madonna tal-Karmnu, Valley Road, Birkirkara.
The launch of Persecuted and Forgotten? 2013-15, a biannual ACN report, comes at a time of increasing concern for the future of Christianity in parts of the Middle East where numbers have plummeted. With previously published research already showing Christianity to be the world’s most persecuted religion, the ACN Report highlights the growing impact of extremism in Africa, the Asian sub-continent and elsewhere.
Meetings with VIPs
Fr Jaar’s first private meeting shortly after arriving in Malta, was with Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, the President of Malta, at the palace in San Anton. The violence in the Middle East and resulting exodus of refugees from Iraq and Syria were among the topics discussed.
On Monday 26 Oct, Fr Jaar met the Speaker Anglu Farrugia at the new Parliament building. He handed over copies of Persecuted and Forgotten? for the Speaker to distribute to every Member of Parliament.
Fr Jaar was invited to meet Madame Hedva Ser, UNESCO Ambassador Artist for Peace, and the artists participating in Art Camp Malta 2015. After viewing some paintings which had just been completed, Fr Jaar was introduced to the artists. Among them were a Palestinian and an Israeli from his homeland whom he was particularly pleased to meet. The visit concluded with a private tour of Verdala Palace led by Mgr Joe Vella Gauci, Malta’s Ambasador to UNESCO, who was responsible for the invitation to Art Camp Malta.
Having expressed a wish to meet and get to know the Maltese people, Fr Khalil was invited to visit several parishes in Malta including Mellieħa, St Sebastian in Qormi, St Gregory and Jesus of Nazareth in Sliema.
Hundreds turned up to hear the moving account of his experiences helping Christians who lost everything they had when they fled from Islamic State. When he met parishioners after mass, many pledged their support and offered generous donations to help him carry out his humanitarian work.
Trip to Gozo
During his visit to Gozo, Fr Jaar met with HE Mgr Joe Vella Gauci, ambassador to UNESCO. They discussed how UNESCO could help Fr Jarr with his humanitarian work, caring for 400 displaced families from Iraq and Syria. Fr Gerald Buhagar took Fr Jaar on a personal tour of Ta’ Pinu basilica and presented him with a special gift, a stole of the Year of Mercy. Later he was interviewed by Frangesco Pio Attard.
Fr Jaar was invited to Xagħra parish, where he celebrated mass in English together with archpriest Mgr Carmeo Refalo. Moved by his account of the suffering endured by Christians who fled Iraq and Syria, parishioners gave him money to help provide these displaced families with food, accommodation and other necessities including education.
Fr Jaar was shown round id-Dar tal-Providenza by the Director, Fr Martin Micallef. He also met the Sisters of St Clare at their convent in St Julians