Sometimes there aren’t words enough to describe a situation like the one currently taking place in Iraq. As Islamic militants, known as the Islamic State, or ISIS, advance through the northern part of the country, Iraqi Christians and other minorities are running for their lives. For those left in ISIS’ path, it’s convert or be killed. Some aren’t even offered that option.
For many of us, tucked away safely in our homes half a world away, the brutal violence raging at the hands of the Islamic militants is beyond comprehension. The scope is too massive; the images too horrible; the tragedy too inconceivable.
We invite you to join us in starting a national campaign of hope for the suffering in Iraq.
What is there for us to do but wring our hands in despair and hope for better days to come? If you find yourself faced with this question, we invite you to join us in starting a national campaign of hope for the suffering in Iraq.
Here are six action steps we can take to make a difference.
Stay informed. Read the paper; watch the news. Listen to what Church leaders in Rome and in the Middle East are saying, as well as your local bishop. Talk about the situation with friends and family. Don’t just rely on social media or hearsay. Find out what’s going on and how you can do something about it.
Speak out. Contact your congressional representative and encourage the United States government to continue its humanitarian assistance to those suffering abroad. Urge that the United States find the source of ISIS funding and put pressure on responsible parties. Encourage your parish to include prayers for Iraqi refugees, for refugees around the world and for peace in the world. Write your pastor or bishop and ask that they call attention to the religious liberty needs of those around the world in their homilies and public appearances.
Give. Pledge one dollar a day to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a Vatican aid organization, to care for a child refugee. Donate funds to Catholic Relief Services, who, along with its partner Caritas Iraq, is providing food, bedding and hygiene supplies to displaced Iraqi families. These funds also will be used to help with long-term resettlement efforts.
Pray. Incorporate prayers for peace in the Middle East and safety for Christians into your daily routine. Be specific and be consistent. Ask the saints, especially the Christian martyrs, to intercede to our Lord for the suffering of those on earth. Pray for the conversion of hearts and for the reign of peace. Fast from a food or beverage or from a form of entertainment to maintain solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters. Heed the request of Des Moines, Iowa, Bishop Richard E. Pates, chairman of the Committee of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and pray for peace as a nation together.
Welcome the stranger. The United States has a history of welcoming into its borders those who are escaping religious persecution. Those on the brink of death in Iraq should be no exception. Let us find room in our hearts and in our homeland for the men, women and children who are being forced to leave their own homes, communities and parishes.
Listen to Pope Francis. “Hatred is not to be carried in the name of God! War is not to be waged in the name of God!” the pope said. “Let us pray together to the God of peace, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary: Give us peace, O Lord, in our days, and make us builders of justice and peace.”
For more information, including links to charities and a prayer for peace, visit OSV.com/Iraq.
Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor