I almost did not go. If you live in DC, you know why. It was raining, (as it has for the past three weeks) the traffic was terrible, and I knew it would be nearly impossible to find a parking place on Capitol Hill at noon. I felt so blessed as I neared my location. To my great surprise and delight I spied a spot just ahead of me. As the light turned green, I eased forward towards my goal and a woman raced in front of me and zipped into what will now be known as, “MY parking space”. I was so angry. Really. Infuriated.
I looked up to heaven and from the core of my being asked, “Why God?” Why would You allow this to happen? Here I am, coming all of this way, in all of this rain and traffic to support a friend and a cause I know little about, and I thought You had given me this spot, only to find out at the last second that You let MY parking space be taken away from me. Why?!”
My friend Kathryn Jean Lopez had invited me to hear Fr. Douglas Bazi, a Chaldean priest from Iraq, who was in town speaking about the horrific plight of the 125,000 displaced Iraqi Christian people in Mosul and the Nineveh region who have been driven from their homes. He then shared with us his own ordeal of being kidnapped and tortured by ISIS.
Still wet with feathers ruffled-- I finally settled in my seat only to be arrested by the first words I heard from Fr. Bazi. They were so convicting that I write to you now as a penance for my myopic and ridiculous self-centered small-mindedness.
“Through it all, (and he was talking about the killings, kidnappings, torture, rape and human trafficking done by ISIS to his people) not one of my people blames God. Not one of my people has killed themselves. I wonder if it would be the same here in America?”
Oh my goodness. Only moments before, I had blamed God for the loss of a parking space while this priest's people, in the strength and beauty of their faith, have not blamed God for the loss of their homeland and even their very lives and the lives of those they love.
I get so caught up in my own little world that even in Washington DC, I can forget about the world outside of my own bubble.
Fr. Bazi went on to say that when priests in America are ordained, they know they are taking a vow of chastity, obedience and poverty, but in the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria when they are ordained they know that it will mean almost certain death. He is willing to die for his faith. His life is on the line each and every day.
He spoke of his people living in boxcars with shared facilities, (no privacy) with little food and, if things don’t change in the next thirty days, little to no hope. He is asking us for our support in many ways.
How we can help:
Pray! for Fr. Bazi and his people*. Contact your Church and have prayers for the persecuted Church placed on the prayer intentions at each of the Masses.
Give! to the Knights of Columbus relief fund for persecuted Christians: - (An overhead-free charity run by the Knights of Columbus with every penny going directly to the persecuted Church’s needs.)
Come! this Friday, May 20 at 6:00pm for an interfaith event called: “Faith Over Fear- Choosing Unity over Extremism” at Washington Hebrew Congregation. Religious leaders will inform us as a community, about ways to confront religious extremism and build greater understanding and harmony. (Fr. Bazi will not be at this event but other leaders in interfaith conversation will.) You must RSVP.
Offer up! anytime you feel you have been wronged, cheated, abused or dismissed. Think about Fr. Bazi and the plight of the Iraqi and Syrian Church and offer up your injury for them. Take strength from their example of fortitude by not retaliating but showing love even to their enemies. “We choose to love” says Fr. Bazi. “The challenges, the turbulence, push my people to be stronger everyday. This is the strategy, how we survive.”
“But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-11
Please join with me in this prayer:
*O God of all the nations,
the One God who is and was and always will be, in your providence you willed that your Church be united to the suffering of your Son. Look with mercy on your servants
who are persecuted for their faith in you. Grant them perseverance and courage
to be worthy imitators of Christ.
Bring your wisdom upon leaders of nations to work for peace among all peoples.
May your Spirit open conversion
for those who contradict your will,
that we may live in harmony.
Give us the grace to be united in truth and freedom, and to always seek your will in our lives.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us.
Prayer composed by Archbishop William E. Lori,
KNIGHTS OF COLUMBUS christiansatrisk.org