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Archbishop From Iraq: Finding Middle East Peace

June 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Detachment, Peace

Dear Friends,

I had the fascinating opportunity to spend some time with Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil (Northern Iraq) last week. I was blessed to meet him face-to-face as I facilitated an interview with him and Tim Drake of the National Catholic Register during his visit to EWTN.

We talked about the state of the Church in Iraq, the persecution, and the resolve of this good Bishop to remain steadfast in his commitment to Christ and the Church.

What struck me most about him was his response to a question I asked him about fear. I asked what it is like to live among many people (not all) who would be much happier if he all the Christians that inhabited that region were dead. He looked me in the eye and his response was jarring. I won't quote him word for word but I will reflect on the impact of his words to me. This is basically what he said.

Absolutely not. The Holy Spirit gives me strength and peace. We have been here for 2,000 years and I have no intention of doing anything but to peacefully continue the work that Christ has set before us.

Several things about his response stayed with me well after our parting. First, his instant negation of the idea of living in fear or anxiety. I could see in his eyes that this was a sincere reflection of his internal reality. I have no doubt that some days are filled with dread, concern, and struggle – he is human after all. I also have no doubt that this man knows and loves our Lord and receives a particular strength of the Holy Spirit that animates his life and service to the Church and the hostile environment around him.

What about our reaction to the hostility of the current administration in the U.S. toward Christians and religious liberty? What about our reaction to the stagnant economy? Do we walk in peace or in fear, anxiety or dread? Do we walk with Christ upon the water of faith or do we sink and cower as we focus on the challenges we face rather than Christ? If it is possible for a man to live in relative internal peace in the midst of a country that has seen the slaughter of countless innocents and righteous soldiers and continues to threaten more, how can we not walk in peace in our relative safety and ease? For those of us who live in places of peril, God be with you – the same promise applies to all everywhere. Jesus said in John 14,

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Do you know His peace? If not, maybe it is time to dig deeper and seek this great gift that he has for us if we will turn our hearts to Him.

PS: You can follow this link to read the National Catholic Register interview.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Here in Kenya, we should be living in utter fear….what with daily threats and systematic sporadic attacks from Al-Shabaab Islamic terrorists from the fallen State of Somalia – an off-shot of Al Qaeda…time and time again, they have bombed our Churches, our Bus Termini and Entertainment Houses, killing tens of innocent Kenyans…..we are already in an Election mode.  Yet the Post-Election Violence of 2007/08, where over 1,500 were killed and over 700,000 displaced from their homes and their properties burned down is still fresh in our minds…..majority of those who were displaced are still living as Internally Displaced Persons in tattered tents with no hope of ever recovering their small farms or businesses…..the Government appears overwhelmed to be of any help to them.

    But, we are not living in fear…we are full of hope…. we have intensified our Prayers for our Country and many groups of people of goodwill have come together and are helping the displaced IDPs  to re-build their shattered lives elsewhere since there is still hostility from the neighbours who  evicted them from their original residences making it unsafe for them to try to return to what used to be their homes for since the 1920s!!!!…..unbelievably, the victims have now been labelled the aggressors……but we have more hope than ever before that God has not abandoned us and He will forestall another blood-letting come the General Elections next March….eventually the Holy Spirit will work in the hearts of now estranged neighbours and bring about forgiveness and genuine reconciliation between the IDPs and their former neighbours….The Catholic Church has already done a lot and continues to preach peace and reconciliation.

    • judeen

      God bless you… may the angles look after you and those of God…
         do you look at this as spiritual? do you pray for your enemys.. that God will melt their hearts. and change their lives.. so they will not kill no more? 
           it is hard to pray for a enemy that wants to kill you… there is so much pain.. but pain hardens the heart.. talked to some from africa.. that went to” intercessors of the lamb. confrence…. ” and to look at it spiritually.. ” there are promises in scripture for safty, peace… .. pray them , and stay right with God . fighting the devil … with goodness..
           also abraham had 2 sons… one of the slave and other from his wife.. God gave them both a big nation… they were brothers and loved each other.. and abraham loved them both… christians call themselves sons of abraham.. moslems call themselves slaves of abraham… are we the brothers?
         also break all generational curse in the name of Jesus christ 3 xs
            I hope ,in God this will help … only you can tell us if it does.. if it does.. you know how many countrys you could help bring peace? it would be from you…

      • Yes, judeen….we pray for the terrorists, and all other criminals who terrorize the innocent…..in particular we, the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy, pray for them – our Countries and all those other countries where there is war and violence –  during the 3.00 O’Clock Holy Hour – the Hour of Great Mercy – asking the Holy Spirit to touch the souls of all who plan and perpetrate evil to change their ways…..this is a Commandment from Jesus Christ Himself…..”pray for your enemies….pray for those who persecute you”……

        you will be surprised  that  those Post-election-violence victims who are still suffering in tattered tents in the IDP camps have no bitterness whatsoever against their neighbours who rose against them, killed their loved ones, and destroyed their live and properties and took away their small farms……when you talk to them you are amazed at how God’s Grace is powerful and He has inspired those victims to forgive their tormentors unconditionally….all they are looking forward to is genuine reconciliation

    • Becky313

      God Bless you Mary! And all those who live and teach the faith in difficult and dangerous circumstances….like this Bishop!!

      Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

      V. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.

      R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

      Let us pray.
      O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

  • Here in Kenya, we should be living in utter fear….what with daily threats and systematic sporadic attacks from Al-Shabaab Islamic terrorists from the fallen State of Somalia – an off-shot of Al Qaeda…time and time again, they have bombed our Churches, our Bus Termini and Entertainment Houses, killing tens of innocent Kenyans…..we are already in an Election mode.  Yet the Post-Election Violence of 2007/08, where over 1,500 were killed and over 700,000 displaced from their homes and their properties burned down is still fresh in our minds…..majority of those who were displaced are still living as Internally Displaced Persons in tattered tents with no hope of ever recovering their small farms or businesses…..the Government appears overwhelmed to be of any help to them.

    But, we are not living in fear…we are full of hope…. we have intensified our Prayers for our Country and many groups of people of goodwill have come together and are helping the displaced IDPs  to re-build their shattered lives elsewhere since there is still hostility from the neighbours who  evicted them from their original residences making it unsafe for them to try to return to what used to be their homes for since the 1920s!!!!…..unbelievably, the victims have now been labelled the aggressors……but we have more hope than ever before that God has not abandoned us and He will forestall another blood-letting come the General Elections next March….eventually the Holy Spirit will work in the hearts of now estranged neighbours and bring about forgiveness and genuine reconciliation between the IDPs and their former neighbours….The Catholic Church has already done a lot and continues to preach peace and reconciliation.

    • judeen

      God bless you… may the angles look after you and those of God…
         do you look at this as spiritual? do you pray for your enemys.. that God will melt their hearts. and change their lives.. so they will not kill no more? 
           it is hard to pray for a enemy that wants to kill you… there is so much pain.. but pain hardens the heart.. talked to some from africa.. that went to” intercessors of the lamb. confrence…. ” and to look at it spiritually.. ” there are promises in scripture for safty, peace… .. pray them , and stay right with God . fighting the devil … with goodness..
           also abraham had 2 sons… one of the slave and other from his wife.. God gave them both a big nation… they were brothers and loved each other.. and abraham loved them both… christians call themselves sons of abraham.. moslems call themselves slaves of abraham… are we the brothers?
         also break all generational curse in the name of Jesus christ 3 xs
            I hope ,in God this will help … only you can tell us if it does.. if it does.. you know how many countrys you could help bring peace? it would be from you…

      • Yes, judeen….we pray for the terrorists, and all other criminals who terrorize the innocent…..in particular we, the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy, pray for them – our Countries and all those other countries where there is war and violence –  during the 3.00 O’Clock Holy Hour – the Hour of Great Mercy – asking the Holy Spirit to touch the souls of all who plan and perpetrate evil to change their ways…..this is a Commandment from Jesus Christ Himself…..”pray for your enemies….pray for those who persecute you”……

        you will be surprised  that  those Post-election-violence victims who are still suffering in tattered tents in the IDP camps have no bitterness whatsoever against their neighbours who rose against them, killed their loved ones, and destroyed their live and properties and took away their small farms……when you talk to them you are amazed at how God’s Grace is powerful and He has inspired those victims to forgive their tormentors unconditionally….all they are looking forward to is genuine reconciliation

        • judeen

          amazing..i watch a movie night before last about this very thing…. I met a nun from kenya too going through this.. but yet I am amazed at all the people who have gone through so much…
                we cry to Jesus for you.. heal you and your nation.. we reclaim all the people , the land everthing in the land and the atmosphere about it.. we reclaim the gov too. for God .. may God be glorified.. and bring peace.. healing and renewal this we pray in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ….
               it leaves 1 speach less.. when 1 sees all what you are going through… I will pray more for africa and the people.. forgive us for our selfishness…and thoughless ness….

    • Becky Ward

      God Bless you Mary! And all those who live and teach the faith in difficult and dangerous circumstances….like this Bishop!!

      Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

      V. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.

      R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

      Let us pray.
      O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

  • judeen

    when you realize fear is from the devil.. so is anxity and releaseness… you reexamine your feelings.. and ask your self is this from God..? the bishop is right on.. pray for our enemys… peace… 1 fights the devil with love… that is your weapon…
          i read a book ,given to me from a pentecostal minister. she told me to read it… and I did..
        I would cover my house with the precious blood of Jesus and bless my house often… then someone got mad at my husband.. and came over it beat him up.. (this was in the book.) he came to the door.. and could not walk across the threshhold.. he would pace back and forth. and when he lifted his leg to go over it he would pull it back and pace some more.. I remember the promise about blessing your house.. no one can enter that wants to harm you… unless you ask them in…
         I did several times. invited him in.. he asked where the sacred heart picture was , it was up stairs , so he went down stairs… he yelled and tryed to touch me .. yet stayed inches away from my neck then went to my husband and could only pace several ft. around him in a circle to far to reach .. then I prayed.. for him and he sat down and talked. a freind came to help him . yet too he could only sit on the couch…
      I read this book for a reason.. the power of God over hate and protection . it is powerful.. so many other storys I could tell..

    • LizEst

       Powerful story, Judeen. Great witness.

  • GHM_52

    Fear and anxiety are our “wounded nature’s” most “natural” reactions to perceived threats to our earthly well-being. If this were not so it would not have been necessary for the heavenly angels and for Lord Jesus to keep repeating “do not be afraid” in a variety of circumstances. We need to pray hard and to receive the Eucharist to obtain this gift of peace. May the Lord bless Archbishop Bashar Warda and all Christians living under threat because of their love of Christ Jesus!

    • judeen

      yes.. your right… I looked for the scripture that tells fear is not from God… for this is how I live.. when in fear I seach God and calm over comes me.. I search for words from God to defray the situation.. yet I could not find the scripture…
               I always heard of – 1st step in wisdom is fear of God… and also alot of scripture God will make them shake in fear and run… for I am with you… and do not fear , for God goes before you… and God will make the fearful of every shaking leaf… and over come all your enemys…
             I forget feelings.. emotions.. dont trust them.. so I dont look at them… sorry

  • Mobrien7

    Hello,

    This puts anxiety about my job in perspective.

    Mike

  • Mobrien7

    Hello,

    This puts anxiety about my job in perspective.

    Mike

  • Jeff Karkut

    I pray for all those who stand up for their faith in hostile environments. You are strength to us all who live in freedom and worry about trivial problems. As we stand to defend religous liberty in the US, let us be thankful for the rights that we do have and use our freedom to help those who live in oppressed nations. To the Bishop and all those following his lead, thank you and may the peace of Christ be with you always. I hope, if faced with what you live with daily, that I can stand the test.

  • Maria

    The power of prayer in times of socio-political upheaval is truly amazing!
    I remember the 1986 People Power revolution here in the Philippines… It was an end to a dictatorial and corrupt rule for over a decade. Everyday there were innocent people arbitrarily arrested and tortured. I wasn’t born yet but my Dad joined the rallies.

    In 1986, there were thousands of people, including nuns and priests praying the rosary along the major road of EDSA. The Archbishop of Manila himself called for the people to peacefully rise against the government. There were tanks threatening to crush the people in its path. They would not budge. As peace offerings, they gave the military flowers and rosaries… The tanks stopped and the military joined the people in prayer. Instead of violence, the tyrannical regime ended in reconciliation.

    It was truly a miraculous victory through the intercession of the Mama Mary! Which is why we now have a shrine dedicated to her along EDSA.

    EDSA by the way stands for Epiphanio delos Santos. The name of a Filipino scholar. Which incidentally means… Epiphany of the Saints! 🙂

    Prayer really works! And the power of God’s love and grace is beyond comprehension!

    • judeen

      i have a freind from philippines what great faith she talks about from your country..

  • The power of prayer in times of socio-political upheaval is truly amazing!
    I remember the 1986 People Power revolution here in the Philippines… It was an end to a dictatorial and corrupt rule for over a decade. Everyday there were innocent people arbitrarily arrested and tortured. I wasn’t born yet but my Dad joined the rallies.

    In 1986, there were thousands of people, including nuns and priests praying the rosary along the major road of EDSA. The Archbishop of Manila himself called for the people to peacefully rise against the government. There were tanks threatening to crush the people in its path. They would not budge. As peace offerings, they gave the military flowers and rosaries… The tanks stopped and the military joined the people in prayer. Instead of violence, the tyrannical regime ended in reconciliation.

    It was truly a miraculous victory through the intercession of the Mama Mary! Which is why we now have a shrine dedicated to her along EDSA.

    EDSA by the way stands for Epiphanio delos Santos. The name of a Filipino scholar. Which incidentally means… Epiphany of the Saints! 🙂

    Prayer really works! And the power of God’s love and grace is beyond comprehension!

    • judeen

      i have a freind from philippines what great faith she talks about from your country..

  • LizEst

    Wonderful post, Dan. My prayers for all those who suffer persecution because of Christ, “their reward will be great in heaven.” Mt 5:12b.

    I looked at the interview and the comments. The Archbishop himself posted on the site on Wednesday:

    “Posted by Archbishop Bashar WARDA CSsR on Wednesday, Jun 13, 2012 12:00 PM (EST):

    Dear in Christ
    I thank you all for your prayers and support
    if you have any word to add and help us looking for new ways to protect
    and keep our people live in respect and dignity, write to us
    bashar_warda@yahoo.com
    bishop_warda@yahoo.com
    God bless you all
    Archbishop Bashar WARDA CSsR”

    “Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/chaldean-archbishop-true-christianity-is-a-persecuted-christianity/#ixzz1xrWWZe00

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