Peter Jesserer Smith is the Washington correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He helped cover Pope Francis’s historic visit to Jerusalem and the Holy Land in 2014. Later that same year, he covered the Syrian and Iraqi refugee crisis by traveling to Jordan and Lebanon, representing the Register through Catholic Relief Services’s Egan Fellowship. Before coming on board the Register in 2013, he was a freelance writer, reporting for Catholic media outlets as the Register and Our Sunday Visitor. He is a graduate of the National Journalism Center and earned a B.A. in Philosophy at Christendom College, where he co-founded the student newspaper, The Rambler, and served as its editor. He comes originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York State.
For the past two months, the Register has brought you the stories of the Iraqi Christians’ desperate condition at the hands of the militants of the Islamic State. They are a sea of refugees robbed of everything, begging the world to let them survive. They haven’t just lost their property and homes — they have been robbed of their identity, their culture, and their history.
Iraq’s Christians face their darkest hour. At the moment, the Islamic State looks as much the future of Iraq as Nazi Germany looked like the future of Europe in June 1941.
But the gimbals of history, on which nations and tyrants rise and fall, sometimes turn in God’s providence on the smallest of human acts. And it may turn on the smallest and most powerful act we can do: prayer.
God answers our prayers in mysterious ways, and he changes our hearts through prayer. We need hearts that desire peace and call upon our leaders, and the world at-large, to deliver Iraq and its Christians from the terror of the Islamic State.
We need to pray that people open their hearts, homes, and churches to support the Iraqi refugees with generosity and love.
So are you going to join the Aug. 6 Global Day of Prayer for Peace in Iraq? It is the Feast of the Transfiguration. Are you going to tell the world that we have not forgotten about Iraq’s Christians? Did the words of this U.S. Chaldean Catholic bishop haunt you, “we wish to scream, but there are no ears that wish to hear. … We want the U.S. to weep with us, but it is not paying attention.”
So if you’re in, Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad has personally composed this Prayer for Peace for Christians to pray:
The plight of our country
is deep, and the suffering of Christians
is severe and frightening.
Therefore, we ask you Lord
to spare our lives, and to grant us patience,
and courage to continue our witness of Christian values
with trust and hope.
Lord, peace is the foundation of life;
Grant us the peace and stability that will enable us
to live with each other without fear and anxiety,
and with dignity and joy.
Glory be to you forever.
Please do one more thing before Aug. 6: call up your parish, and call up your diocese. Ask them whether they are praying publically for Iraq’s Christians. And if, there are no plans, well “make some noise” and say you want to make this public prayer and act of solidarity happen.
But if you’re a Catholic in Michigan, southern California, or Scottsdale, Ariz., or Chicago, you can do something very special for the Iraqi Christians here. You can personally reach out to the local Chaldean Catholic church; you can invite your pastor and the parish to reach out to them; you can invite the diocese to reach out to them. You can be the loving arms of millions of Catholics that want to embrace their suffering brother and sister Catholics from Iraq. Here is a list of Chaldean Catholic Churches in the U.S. that may be near you.
Aid to the Church in Need is sharing Patriarch Sako’s prayer and spreading the word for homes and churches to join in the Global Day of Prayer for Peace in Iraq. I think their meditation on the significance of this day falling on the Feast of the Transfiguration should be the last word:
“The feast of Transfiguration marks the moment when Jesus, on Mount Tabor, appears to three of his disciples in a state of glory, shortly before His ultimate trial on Calvary. This feast holds out a sign of hope for humanity: it is a source of courage when obstacles appear impossible to surmount; a sign that light is stronger than darkness; and testimony that death can turn into life.”
Note: In lieu of comments, please say a prayer for peace in Iraq, or call up a Chaldean Catholic parish to tell them you are praying for them, they are not alone, and you wish to help.