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Mike Pence and Iraqi Christians: Some Words of Thanks

Late last week human-rights herald Congressman Chris Smith nudged the administration to move quickly in aiding the Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq who are victims of ISIS genocide. These are people who have been living in temporary shelters with uncertain futures in a part of the world where they are often not wanted and forgotten by the rest of us. Friday afternoon the vice president’s office very clearly seemed to get the message, announcing that USAID Administrator Mark Green will be going over to Iraq himself to assess the situation. That’s the kind of care these people deserve. These are would-be modern-day martyrs, who are the future of Christianity in this part of the world, who have not been unaffected by U.S. policies from every political party over recent decades.

Fr. Ben Kiely has a piece up today echoing some of Smith’s concerns, based on a recent trip he made there. Thanks is due the administration, too. This seems seems a priority of the vice president’s, as it should be. May it continue to be so.

Today’s the memorial on the liturgical calendar of St. Barnabas, early Christian martyr. Yesterday, in the Liturgy of the Hours, there was this, from St. Ignatius:

Ignatius, called Theophorus, to the church which has found mercy in the generosity of the Father on high and of Jesus Christ, his only Son; to the church which is loved and enlightened by the Father, who wills all that exists in accordance with the love of Jesus Christ our God; to the Church which rules over the land of the Romans, a church worthy of God, worthy of honor and of praise, worthy to be called blessed, worthy to receive the answer to its prayer, pure, and preeminent in love among Christian communities, observing the law of Christ and bearing the Father’s name; I greet this church in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the Father. To those who were in union, body and soul, with his every command, and filled inalienably with the grace of God, and cleansed wholly from all foreign stain, I wish every blameless joy in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Through my prayers I have been granted the favor of seeing you, my holy brothers, face to face, as indeed I have constantly asked. I now hope to embrace you as a prisoner in Christ Jesus, provided that it is God’s will for me to be found worthy to the end. For a good start has been made, if only I may gain the grace to secure my prize without hindrance. For I fear that your love may harm me. It is easy for you to do as you wish, but hard for me to attain to God if you should not allow me to be martyred.

I wish you to please God and not men—as indeed you are doing. I shall never again have such an opportunity to get to God, nor will you, if you keep silent, ever have the credit for a greater achievement. If you keep silent about me, I become a word of God; but if you love me in the flesh, I become a meaningless cry. Grant me no more than to be made a sacrifice to God while there is still an altar at hand. Thus you may form a choir of love and sing praise to the Father in Christ Jesus for so graciously summoning the bishop of Syria from the sun’s rising to come to the place of its setting. It is a fine thing for me to set with the sun, leaving the world and going to God, that I may rise in him.

They are moving words that should continue to move us to action in continuing support of Christian and other religious minorities who were targeted by ISIS genocide. Martyrdom did not end with Barnabas and Ignatius of Antioch.

And if were are Christian, their fight for the very future of Christianity in its historic cradle, should prompt us to be who we say we are, inspiring us to live the lives we say we do by professing as much. To cherish and defend religious freedom here at home and abroad. And to stand with those who give witness to religious freedom and who they say they are in ways most of us will never be called to.  We have so much to learn from them. And we owe them. It is the right thing to do and because we will be better for it.

Thanks to the vice president for moving in the right direction.

And when people ask me what they can do to help, I continue to have the Knights of Columbus relief fund at the top of my suggestions. Donations go directly to the people in need.


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