Please Join Us in Praying for Christians in IraqAug 9th, 2014 | By Casey Chalk | 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.
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:
St. Teresa Benedicta, pray for us!