Earlier today I chanced upon a video that changed my day, really my entire Holy Week; there could be nothing more fitting for the beginning of the period in which we Christians feel excitement, sorrow, and exultation within the space of a few days. The video is of a sermon, given in 2006 by Mar Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, a city now ruled by ISIS. He reigned during the Iraq War, when anti-Christian sentiment was on the rise, so much so that some of his priests were killed and his churches bombed. At one point, he was even marched out of his official residence and forced to watch as it was set on fire. Despite all of this, he preached nothing but love. From the video:
The thing that we Christians know is that we not enemies of anyone…Those who want to be our enemies, we will not be their enemies. And those who hit us, we will not him them back…I invite you today to pray for those who consider us their enemies. And those who bombed our churches, I ask you to pray for them…Let’s today say with one mouth and one heart: “Lord forgive them, they know not what they do.”
In 2008, the elderly and sickly archbishop was kidnapped and martyred, either by Al-Qaeda or Kurdish militants. His witness is undeniable. He called for love in the face of the hatred that led to what we now know as ISIS; he challenged his flock to live the faith despite all odds, a position for which he paid with his life.
As we enter this Holy Week, we should keep in mind all those Christians around the world who suffer with and for Christ, those whose Easters will be marred by threats of terror and violence. And in doing so, we should remember how we let such small things divide us and bring hateful words to our lips: politics, small disputes, and social disagreements. Yet, some have given all for the faith, and loved despite immense hatred. May we learn from their examples, from the example of Archbishop Rahho, and carry, with heavy hearts, conscious of our sins, our hopes and joys to the Lord during this Holy Week, leaving behind all enmity.
The Martyr bishop Paulos Faraj Rahho: love your enemyMar Paulos Rahho, the archbishop of Mosul in a sermon in 2006: We have no enemies and we love and pray for those who see us as their enemies.
Posted by This is Christian Iraq on Sunday, March 13, 2016