A year ago this month, Pope Francis fulfilled a desire of John Paul II, which was to visit the Christian people of Iraq, the cradle of Christianity. These Iraqi Christians were trying to get the world to pay attention to the ISIS genocide of Christians and other religious minorities, and many Americans were surprised that there were any Christians there. They’ve been massacred. But they are still there. And with no small help from the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil has been able to open a university and a hospital and really give the people — many of whom fled from Mosul when it was under ISIS attack — some hope that they and their children have a future in Iraq.
Tuesday night in New York, the National Review Institute is co-sponsoring the world premiere of a documentary at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture in New York City about the Iraqi Christian people and why the pope’s visit to them was so important. It was a shot in the arm for their courage. Just to know that anyone cares that they are there and rebuilding and persevering was a tremendous encouragement to them. Pope Francis went there when we were still in high Covid mode — the media and everyone else seemed to think it was a terrible idea. Security was an issue as well. But he was a profile in courage about this trip. Whatever you think of him, he is the pope, and that visit meant the world to the Christians in Iraq.
The film Francis is Iraq is by an American, Stephen M. Rasche, who has made a commitment to the Christians in Iraq, working for the Archdiocese of Erbil since 2010, and helping build the Catholic University there, among other things. He focuses not on the atrocities, but lets the people speak. I saw it on a big screen for the first time earlier this week, and it’s inspiring. It’s the kind of thing Christians should watch during Lent. People truly living their Christian faith — choosing it over home and job.
We see people fleeing Ukraine and the people of Iraq witnessing to hope in the midst of great evil. If this war calms down, I’d love for some of the people of Ukraine see these people living solidarity with them in their persecution. And to see the hope that remains and will increase, even as there is never certainty of security, other than the eternal kind.
If you are in the New York area, please join us in person Tuesday night. Buy tickets here.
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