A Capuchin friar trying to raise money for Christians in the Middle East was the guest speaker at a fundraiser sponsored by Mike Connors of Connors & Sullivan at the Bay Ridge Manor.
Father Paul Bielecki had impressed Connors with his humanitarian mission of helping to bring medicine and medical supplies to Christians seeking aid and refuge in the region, when he appeared on Connors’ “Ask the Lawyer” radio program.
Bielecki is a medical doctor and a member of the Capuchin Franciscans of the Province of St. Mary, one of the largest religious orders in the Catholic Church, with more 10,000 Capuchins ministering throughout the world. They focus on the needs of the poor and the demands of justice through their ministry.
Bielecki, who has been working in the Middle East for 18 years, has formed a network to help refugees and children escape the war in Syria, which has been raging for over seven years, and find safe havens around the world.
“People talk about how we can help refugees but no one is talking about how we should end the civil war,” Bielecki said.
He discussed the struggle for humanitarian relief. “Everything is politicized in the Middle East, especially Christianity,” Bielecki said. “Doctors are being taken along the Syrian border. I was supposed to have had four physicians with me but they are in jail now. We recently had four doctors who were coming to help before they were detained by the Syrian army. They’ll take them to their camps to help their wounded.”
Bielecki explained that refugees in need daily travel up to 25 miles seeking help at his medical clinic, which is located just across the border from Syria.
Community leader Ralph Succar was at the event representing two organizations which contributed to Bielecki’s mission.
The Salaam Club of New York presented Bielecki with a check for $2,500 and the Rotary Club of Verrazano gave him a check for $1,000. Other members of the Salaam Club attending included attorney Joe Elhilow, accountant Wayne Muratore and John Abi-Habib, honorary consul of Lebanon.
“One of the reasons why I’m here tonight is because I really feel for the Christians in the Middle East,” Succar told this paper. “The Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity. Our faith is rooted in the region and so we can’t allow this to happen. We need to offer our support. I am very proud that the Salaam Club, the Rotary Club and other organizations in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn stepped up to make this commitment.”
Elhilow echoed Succar’s sentiments. “Looking around, it does my heart good as a Lebanese-American to see my non-Lebanese neighbors, non-Arabic neighbors come out to help support the people that are hurt and suffering in the Middle East. I’m very thankful for Father Bielecki and thankful for everybody that came out here tonight, and I pray for all of them.”
Brooklyn Conservative Party Chair Fran Vella-Marrone said she was honored to attend the reception for Bielecki and commended Connors for sponsoring it.
“I support Father Paul’s efforts to address the needs of the Christian refugees in the Middle East,” Vella-Marrone said. “He is literally doing God’s work. His remarks were eye-opening and inspiring. We should all take our cue from him and continue to shine a light on the hardship faced by the persecuted Christians of the Middle East.”
Mike Connors, Frank Vulpi and Justin Daley at Father Paul Bielecki’s reception.