Frank Maria

A Search for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

Detailed Summary

1.       Detailed Summary: This book reflects the energetic life of Francis (Frank) Maria who was passionately devoted to increasing understanding about the Arab world, Arab-Americans of both Christian and Muslim faith, and promoting peace and stability in the Middle East and beyond. Frank was a first generation American of Christian Arab heritage, whose family roots go back to the time of Christ. His family came from Saidnaya, a village north of Damascus, Syria, a famed center of Christian spirituality and charity.

For decades, Frank was a leading spokesperson for the Arab-American perspective in the National Council of Churches, in the media, and among organizations focusing on activities in the Middle East, many of which he helped to found. Frank spent much of his life meeting with U.S. politicians, presidents, governors, senators, news editors, and talk show hosts. He urged bishops, priests, imams, ministers, clergy, and people of every persuasion to get involved in bringing peace to the troubled region of the Middle East, particularly in the Holy Land. He was the author and promoter of many resolutions on the Middle East in both the National Council of Churches and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, all focused on justice and peace for Palestinian Christians and Muslims, people who had no voice.

This book takes us from the Frank’s family roots in Saidnaya, Syria, to his birth and early years in Lowell, MA; to his wartime, service in the U.S. Marine Corps; to his management years in the Merrimack Mills of Lowell during times of economic downturn. It shows him presiding over the 1950 Overseas Convention of the Syrian and Lebanese Federation of the Eastern United States – a milestone in the development of ethnic unity among Arab-Americans -- and invitation from President Eisenhower to attend the White House Conference on World Refugee Problems, where Frank authored four of the eight resolutions on recommendations to solutions on the pressing problems of refugees.

By 1960, Frank’s interests moved towards politics, and after considering a run for Congress, he decided to work behind the scenes to elect John A. Volpe Governor of Massachusetts. Volpe appointed Frank as a Special Assistant to the Governor and Coordinator for the Commission of Administration and Finance. Realizing how inaccurately the media were dealing with the Middle East, Frank began a lifelong campaign of letter writing, helping people understand better his Arabic heritage. Frank challenged editors – and others who crossed his path – to check the facts, especially with the people they were writing about. In the second Volpe administration, Frank served as Staff Assistant and Consultant to the Governor, through April of 1967.

The so-called “Six-Day War” of 1967 forced Frank to focus his attention almost exclusively to urging the United States to adopt an even-handed policy in the volatile Middle East. Frank turned his attention to the churches of Middle Eastern heritage – Orthodox, Latin, Melkite, Maronite, and Armenian – seeking to raise their awareness of the plight of the refugees, to whom they were related by blood. Frank then proceeded to overcome the astounding ignorance of American Christians at large about the region where their faith was born. Most saw it as a Jewish-Muslim conflict and failed to realize that many of the refugees and victims were Christians.

Frank involved himself in organizations such as Project Loving Care and AMARA, which sought to bring relief to suffering Palestinians of all faiths. Frank’s work as Chairman of the Department of Near East Affairs of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America and his involvement in the National Council of Churches consumed virtually all of his time and energies in the 1970s-80s. Frank urged Christians to realize that they had a duty to be concerned for the oppressed, homeless, and injured throughout the world and especially in the birthplace of Christianity. Through Frank’s efforts, many resolutions were written and disseminated to presidents and media outlets. The press was systematically called to task for every inaccuracy about the Middle East and the problems uneven U.S. policy was creating around the world. Frank squared off against almost every U.S. administration, and their lack of ears to hear is shown in the current crises. To understand the present in the Middle East, one must understand the past. This book presents insights to where we have gone wrong and offers solutions to present-day problems in the Middle East. A must read for anyone who wishes to understand these complex issues.

2.       Setting of the Book: Much of he book is set in New England, where Frank Maria is born, raised, educated, pursues several careers, and retires. His advocacy of justice and peace in the Middle East, however, takes him to power centers in New York, Washington, Geneva, and places throughout the troubled region.

3.       Main Character: This book is an authorized biography of Francis (Frank) Maria, a teacher, administrator, industrial executive, business consultant, and public servant to his community, his nation, and the world. A first generation American Christian of Syrian heritage, Frank spent the major portion of his life working to help fellow Americans better understand Arab culture and persuade the government to deal more equitably with the troubled region. Frank’s character is formed during the Depression in the multi-ethnic city of Lowell, MA, where he became a community leader in civic and church-related activities. Strong moral values, natural leadership ability, and a keen mind set the stage for the part that he would play after World War II, encouraging Arab-Americans to unite, and the American public at large, their elected officials, and policymakers to understand the history and culture of all the people of the Middle East, Christian, Jew, and Muslim. Beginning in 1967, Frank becomes a leading spokesman for an unpopular cause: justice for the Palestinians and Jews, which was – and is – the key to peace throughout the Middle East. An advocate of “people-to-people” programs, Frank sought to bring people together. He strongly felt that if people come face-to-face with one another, they could begin to understand one another. Frank warned of the great cost America would pay in security and in dollars by backing one side exclusively in the Middle East. Throughout the book one senses Frank’s profound care for the oppressed and voiceless people of Palestine and for the welfare of his American homeland.

4.       Appeal of the book: This book presents a little-known but fascinating story of how one man labors as the “mouse that roars” to readjust U.S. policy in the Middle East in order to better serve American interests and bring peace and prosperity to the strategic region. That policymakers failed to pay closer attention is evident in events today in the Middle East and our shattered U.S. policy in that region.

5.       Target audience - This will appeal to a number of audiences:

a.       Historians interested in the immigration of people from other parts of the world, and the lives of early immigrant communities.

b.      Those interested in the issues of the Holy Land, especially the plight of the Palestinian people, and the right for justice of all people in the area.

c.       Those who want to have a better understanding of events that led up to our current involvement in Iraq and other areas of the Middle East.

d.      Those who want to know the issues and perspective of Arab-Americans, historically and currently.

e.      People interested in the workings of the National Council of Churches, the Antiochian Orthodox Church, and historical background relating to Islam.

f.        There is a strong section on the mills of Lowell, MA, which should appeal to those interested in textile manufacturing in the U.S. and people wanting to know this important part of the history of Lowell.

g.       Frank Maria’s life touched so many people, throughout the country – many will recognize his or her name and want to read the story.