Please Join Us in Praying for Christians in Iraq

Aug 9th, 2014 | By | Category: Blog Posts

We are possibly witnessing the eradication of Christianity across large swathes of northern Iraq. Although Called to Communion seeks to avoid writing that might be viewed as alamarist or propagandist, we believe the tragic situation unfolding in Iraq deserves our immediate attention, our immediate prayers, and our immediate assistance. This is truly an ecumenical cause, as the forces that threaten Catholic communities in the Middle East also threaten Orthodox and Protestant communions as well. Through our spiritual and material union in this dire situation, we have the capacity to help our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in desperate need of help from all who are able. Without our aid, hundreds of thousands of Christians currently under threat will all the more face poverty, homelessness, and possibly death.

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Other accounts elsewhere can provide the larger historical and political explanations of what has happened in Iraq and the wider Middle East in recent years. The abbreviated and immediate narrative involves the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), an Islamic extremist group that has steadily gained power, land, and military resources across vast areas of Syria and Iraq. This group, which seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate and ultimately unite all Muslims under its banner, has streamrolled through areas with significant and historic Christian populations. Many reports have cited the aggressive persecution that Christians and other religious minorities are suffering at the hands of ISIL militants. These reports, which we will refrain from repeating in explicity detail, are gruesome, horrifying and heart-wrenching. The simple fact is that in those areas under ISIL control, Christians are being forced to convert, and many of those who refuse to do so are being martyred. Christians by the thousands have fled areas they have inhabited for almost two millennia, seeking refuge in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq. The Kurds are themselves in military and financial duress, and are incapable of providing the refuge and requisite aid these Christians require. These refugee Christian populations need our help, and they need it as soon as possible.

When I was a student at Reformed Theological Seminary, I shared a class with a missionary who had spent many years in Turkey. He told me the Reformed community in Turkey numbered approximately 3,000 persons out of about 120,000 Christians (I’m not able to verify the accuracy of those numbers). There being so few Reformed Christians in Turkey, the need for ecumenism was strong, and this missionary counted Catholics, Orthodox, and other Christians among some of his most deepest and trusted friends and counterparts. To be greatly outnumbered or to be threatened forces us to live together, to work together, and to pray together, finding creative and meaningful ways to work and worship in ways that do not violate our consciences, but reflect our shared love of Christ our savior and His people. The current situation in Iraq is just such a time.

For we Catholics, today is a very appropriate day to consider our suffering fellow Christians in Iraq. The Church on 9 August honors the memory of Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross–Edith Stein–a Jewish convert to the Catholic faith who suffered and died for her ethnicity and religion at the hands of intolerant ideologues. A “martyr for love,” in the words of Saint John Paul II, St. Teresa Benedicta would certainly understand the plight of persecuted minority communities who are suffering before violent jihadists. We, in her memory and the memory of the persecuted Church in Iraq, should offer up the words of Psalm 9 from today’s lectionary, that declares,

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of distress. They trust in you who cherish your name, for you forsake not those who seek you, O LORD. Sing praise to the LORD enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations his deeds; For the avenger of blood has remembered; he has not forgotten the cry of the poor.

May we, with the psalmist, offer up our prayers for those in need, and, if able, provide them the material aid they will need in the weeks to come. Please join Called to Communion in praying for Christians in Iraq, sharing with the uninformed near and far their terrible plight, and seeking, as able, to provide them the support and help they desperately need. The below links provide some suggested websites where you can assist suffering Christians in Iraq:

Assyrian Aid Society

Catholic Relief Services

Catholic Near East Welfare Assocation

International Catholic Migration Commission

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St. Teresa Benedicta, pray for us!

5 comments
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  1. Thank you for writing this Casey.

    Its safe to say that this is an absolutely horrific time in human history. Man’s ability to be utterly inhuman to other humans is proven again in a startling way. If one ever needed proof of Satan’s existence and temporal powers, look no further than the actions of his servants in Iraq right now. Demon possessed men beheading innocent children while shouting ‘god is Great’ – their god is not the Holy God of Abraham.

    Its not only the persecuted Christians, but the persecuted non-Sunni Muslims, Kurds and other minorities that need our prayers, help and are crying out for justice.

    Lord come quickly.

  2. Praying through the Psalter has kept these refugee Christians populations foremost in my thoughts. If you pray the Psalms regularly, or not, please consider offering them up in the following days for the Christians of Iraq and other parts of the Middle East who are presently being persecuted. These are their songs.

  3. Casey,

    Thank you for this.

    Another way to help financially is through the Knights of Columbus who have set up an Iraq Refugees relief fund. Here is the link: https://www.kofc.org/giving/Donate.action?lang=en&charityType=HCR&donorType=US

  4. Yes, indeed.

    Also pray that the infallible magisterium will change the Church’s official teaching (in the CCC) that Islam worships the God of Abraham, just as Christians and Jews do. That assertion is logically impossible, not only because of the late birth of Islam as a religion (i.e. begins with Mohammed), but also because its “god” denies he has a Son, denies Jesus’ divinity, and denies Jesus’ crucifixion (and thereby his resurrection from the dead). That is what the Mohammed taught, and his Quran teaches. That is HIS revelation allegedly from HIS god.

    Clearly, Muslims do not worship the God of Abraham, although they make a claim to it (which the Catholic Church has stood behind in the CCC). Mohammed, according to the Law and Jesus can only be classified as a FALSE prophet. At that, he was mostly a “prophet” of his own lust for power, wealth, and women (and even a little girl, whom he married when she was 7, and bedded when she was 9). Just as with the violent Muslims today, he lied, oppressed, robbed, murdered, and slaughtered those who would not accept him as prophet (by his god’s command).

    The fact is, it took a brutal, selfish, mostly secularist dictator to keep Muslims from persecuting Christians and Jews in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion; and it took the Crusades (and centuries later the armies of Poland, etc) to keep the Muslims from overrunning all of Western Europe. That is reality.

    Studied Muslims know Christians do not serve the same god they serve. It’s time to stop pretending we do.

  5. Hi Malcolm (#4),

    Welcome to Called to Communion if this is your first comment, and thanks for the note.

    You wrote,

    Also pray that the infallible magisterium will change the Church’s official teaching (in the CCC) that Islam worships the God of Abraham, just as Christians and Jews do. That assertion is logically impossible, not only because of the late birth of Islam as a religion (i.e. begins with Mohammed), but also because its “god” denies he has a Son, denies Jesus’ divinity, and denies Jesus’ crucifixion (and thereby his resurrection from the dead). That is what the Mohammed taught, and his Quran teaches. That is HIS revelation allegedly from HIS god.

    It can be difficult to tell on the Internet if someone is being sarcastic or not, but I’m going to presume you are not when you suggest that the Church could change its magisterial teaching on Islam. It is impossible for the Church to change its magisterial teaching on Islam by virtue of the nature of magisterial teaching, which is authoritative, infallible doctrine taught on behalf of Christ by His current earthly representative, the Catholic Church. This post is not about Islam or Church teaching on Islam per se, so I don’t want to wander far afield from the subject of ISIL’s immediate, ongoing persecution of Christians and other religious communities. That said, the Church’s teaching on Islam can be found in the Nostra Aetate, proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in 1965. Here is the link:

    http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html

    I’m afraid I do not understand your reasoning when you say that Islam cannot in any sense worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because of its origin in the 7th century A.D. Christianity also claims to worship the God of Abraham and yet also has an origin well after these individuals lived. There is nothing inherently problematic about the date of origin of a religion that would de facto mean the religion could not draw from or identify with another religious tradition. Furthermore, to your second point, the Catholic Church recognizes Islam as worshipping the God of Abraham in as much as Islam’s conception of God aligns with that of Judaism and Christianity. I think you are right that there is plenty of divergence from Jewish and Christian conceptions of God within the Islamic tradition, but that does not cancel out those beliefs and doctrines that are shared (e.g. God’s oneness).

    I’m going to refrain from responding to the rest of your comments, as they are only very tangentially related to this post, and are unnecessarily rhetorical and provocative in their discussion of Islam and the current situation in the Middle East. There is certainly space for us to share our concerns and disagreements with certain aspects of Islamic faith and history, but this particular post is not the appropriate venue for such a conversation. Further similar comments will not be approved. in Christ, Casey

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