This is a reflection given at an ecumenical prayer vigil for peace in Iraq and other troubled areas in the world. The vigil was held at the St Joseph and St Anthony Church, Bracken Ridge, Brisbane, on August 3.
MY name is Netta Sheridan and this is my beloved Church.
I travelled here in safety this afternoon and was not stopped on my way coming to St Joseph’s, Bracken Ridge.
I did not have to stop, and with anxiety, pass through any checkpoints and show a national identity card or my passport.
I have not been evicted from my home. My home has not been marked with the Arabic letter (pictured) meaning “Nazarene” and follower of Jesus Christ.
When I return home this afternoon, I will be safe and I will sleep in peace tonight.
If I was a Christian in Mosul I would no longer be able to worship in my beloved church.
The Christian churches have been ransacked.
Can we imagine this? Can we imagine our church? Can you imagine your church ransacked?
How would we feel to come here and find the chairs overturned, perhaps shattered glass, to walk through this brokenness and see, first hand, the sacredness of this place – our place – violated?
No more Masses, no more Christian services in our churches, no freedom to worship.
Our lovely simple cross, the symbol of our faith in Jesus Christ, removed, as the crosses have been removed in Mosul, Iraq.
Recently many Christians throughout the world are displaying a symbol – the first letter of the Arabic word for Christian, “Nasrani” or Nazarene – to say, “I am in solidarity with my sisters and brothers in Iraq. I stand with you. I am a follower of the Nazarene, Jesus Christ.”
If I was a Christian in Mosul, I would no longer be in Mosul because there are no Christians left there.
Some have escaped to Qaraqosh (30km away) and to other places in the Kurdistan part of Iraq.
Christians have been eradicated (I don’t like this word; it’s very brutal).
We, in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Mosul and in Iraq, have been eradicated, we have ceased to exist.
This is after nearly 2000 years.
I am fortunate that I am free to worship as a Catholic and as a Christian, happily and without any persecution whatsoever.
It is easy for me.
So, what is Jesus saying to us, in the same way as he is saying to our Iraqi family in Christ?
He says it in the same way and in the same words.
He speaks to our hearts in the same way.
Really it is not Australian Christians and Iraqi Christians – it is just Christians because we are one.
We feel their pain, their fear for their children, their fear for their weak and infirm, their fear for their elderly parents. We are one.
So what is Jesus saying to us? I ask again.
I think I need to ask Him in a specific way … perhaps it is appropriate for me to ask Him the same question the little man of peace, St Francis of Assisi asked, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”
As part of our Christian faith we are all the body of Christ and he lives out his Mission through we, His people. So it is in this way that we, gathered here today, are part of His Mission.
In all of this tragedy there is Hope, because we, gathered here on a Sunday afternoon, are the Hope.
Why are we here?
I will let you ponder this question yourself.
Thank you for being here today, thank you for your continued prayers for our Iraqi families here and in Iraq and especially thank you for being the Hope – with a capital “H” – the Hope that is founded on Love and Faith.
Netta Sheridan is parish pastoral council member in the Parish of St Joseph and St Anthony, Bracken Ridge/Bald Hills.