The news that’s been coming out of Iraq the past few months has gone from bad to worse. If you’re like me, you watch, read, or listen in horror to reports of what is truly a genocide. What’s worse, is that our country has a direct role in the events playing out. Whether you believe we were naive to invade Iraq in 2003 or naive to withdraw from Iraq in 2011, make no mistake: Iraq is a country today that is unable to protect is own citizens. Pope Francis is in dismay over the brutality; his personal envoy to Iraq has called for military protection and assistance to respond to the humanitarian crisis.
I’ve been following the plight of the Christians in Iraq since the horrific massacre at Our Lady Of Salvation Syriac Catholic church on the eve of All Saints in 2010. The group that walked around that church systematically executing beleivers while a 3-year old toddler lay crying out, “enough, enough” in his parent’s arms is the same one that is purging northern Iraq of our Christian brothers and sisters today.
Our Bishops reminded us two years ago that we still have a moral obligation to the people of Iraq. The airstrikes seem to have provided some relief, enough to evacuate some of the most hard-pressed to refugee camps. But our obligation cannot end once our brothers and sisters are within the fences of a refugee camp. The refugees are saying there is little hope of return to their homes, and a crowded refugee camp is no place to live a life.
But it is a place where we can help immediately.
These are just a few of the efforts I’ve heard of and, next week, I hope to have heard of more and offer some other ideas. But until then, we must pray for all the victims of the violence in Iraq but especially our fellow Christians who are being persecuted for the simple reason that they believe in Christ.
The USCCB is asking us all to pray for peace in Iraq this Sunday. The prayer offered was written by Patriarch Sako for his flock, who are questioning whether they can remain in Iraq or must flee; they are literally praying for their lives. What are we praying for today? Let’s join them in their prayer and do whatever we can to assist them in their need and bring them hope:
The plight of our country
is deep and the suffering of Christians
is severe and frightening.
Therefore, we ask you Lord
to spare our lives, and to grant us patience,
and courage to continue our witness of Christian values
with trust and hope.
Lord, peace is the foundation of life;
Grant us the peace and stability that will enable us
to live with each other without fear and anxiety,
and with dignity and joy.
Glory be to you forever.