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Faith in the Time of Persecution
A letter from Iraq to Christians in the West


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We are victims, and we suffer at the hands of fundamentalists coming from distant countries to fight against those whom they consider to be the infidels (us Christians), using as an excuse that their brothers are being persecuted in various countries. Their reaction is to kill others. Our reaction to persecution must be that of becoming more loving, more united, ever stronger in showing the world the true image of life, as taught us by Jesus Christ.

The Christian world defends its persecuted faithful through the revelation, the realization, and the strength of the love that is the foundation of faith and that embraces everyone — even our persecutors. There is a great temptation to which persecuted Christians can fall victim, and which I myself never tire of warning against: namely, that because of being persecuted, we can, with the passing of time, end up becoming persecutors ourselves — turning to violence in our way of thinking, in treating our neighbor, in our way of living.

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This temptation is very powerful: The sentiments that we develop in a climate of persecution can change our way of living — rejecting the Christian way, which is imbued with love — to a manner similar to that of those who demand and speak of justice only, but never of love. Let us be very careful not to live out our faith feebly, because other Christians are suffering. The difficulties of Christians should be a prompting to demonstrate true faith.

When Christians are persecuted, we should take on more firmly the responsibility of our own faith to joyfully give expression to love, fidelity, and justice. If there are Christians in trouble, I should love my neighbor still more; I should be more positive in my way of looking at the business of life, in order to show those suffering the strength of my own faith.

You in the West are living in a way that persecuted Christians cannot. Since they do not have freedom, you must live out the true meaning of freedom; since they cannot publicly celebrate their faith, you must give public witness of your faith in your own societies; since the women in our countries do not have the possibility of freely choosing to go outside their houses, women in the West should become witnesses to true Christian freedom.

Still, we are happy, because we have the opportunity to reflect on our choice to be Christians. We are happy because we have the opportunity to make our freedom concrete — by defending with love the one who attacks us with rancor and hatred. Ultimately, persecution cannot make us sad or despairing, because we believe that human life deserves to be always embraced in a perfect manner, as Jesus showed us — even if death stares us in the face and we have no more than a minute left in this world.

Saint Paul says that “where sin abounded, grace did still more abound” (Rom. 5:20). With him, we may also say that wherever there is persecution, there too will be the grace of a strong faith — and therein lies our salvation.

— Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona heads the Chaldean Catholic eparchy of Mosul, Iraq. His diocese is a beneficiary of Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries.



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