Archbishop Amel Nona was Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul in Iraq for more than four years before he and thousands of other Christians were forced by Islamic State militants to flee in mid-2014. He writes now as Archbishop of the St Thomas Chaldean diocese of Australia and New Zealand.
VIOLENCE, terrorist attacks and killing of innocent people, are daily seen and expected by Christians in a country like Iraq.
Yet, these Christians are called to live by their principles; it’s very challenging to give an adequate response in such a situation.
The unpleasant truth behind this persecution is the elimination of others just because they are different.
The confronting question is, how is it possible to love those responsible for acts like this?
The dilemma that eastern Christians experience today reminds us of the early Christians when they were a small persecuted group in Roman Empire.
Christians struggle with a question: what evil did we commit to be persecuted like this – a peaceful minority who did evil to no one, yet, we get persecuted and marginalised?
Are we able to love those who want to kill us because we don’t share the same faith?
Christianity is a faith of heart not of rules.
It is a creed which does not contain a list of objects to complete in the world, rather we are called to live by a single command from the Divine Master, which sums up the Christian faith: “Love one another as I loved you”.
All the Gospel teachings are centred on this word.
The way that you love “the neighbour” depends on you.
Therefore our faith calls us to be full of love in our hearts, but to realise this love in reality is our mission.
The essential point is love towards the other, even if they are a bad person to us.
ISIS is a gang who bears a hatred toward humanity especially for other faiths, and our challenge is doubled.
First: their evil strives to change our goodness in our hearts? Will this evil be able to change our love for Christ and humanity?
We must be watchful not to spill the love that exists in our hearts, because of terrorist action.
They actually want us to be like them – without love – so they can better justify the hatred that they have against us. Our faith hates evil but not the evil-doer.
Second: Our “Love” drives us to react, in an appropriate way. We have to do something against this evil and not remain just passive.
We need to find a way to stop this evil and uproot this extremist ideology from our societies and in general from the whole world.
This way could be any necessary act to stop the spread of fear derived from the act of terrorists.
This course of action is not against our faith, because our belief itself requires it.
When the Lord teach us to love, He makes us understand that loving each other is not just a personal thing that you keep inside you, but it is a power that will push you to make other people enhance love.
From my personal experience I could confirm that in front of a group of Islamic fundamentalists we need to react strongly with courage, love and to find a stronger way to reply to this threat.
We must understand that the evil that they practise will be defeated by our resistance, our courage and our love.
Many Iraqi and Syrian Christian families started arriving in Australia in the past four months as part of a humanitarian immigration program for persecuted minorities.
The Iraqi Christians were expelled from their lands, houses, properties because of the violence and evil of ISIS.
We lost everything except one thing: our Christian faith, and this unbroken faith and love will be shared with other people in a new land and new country.
New Christian families who arrive in Australia create a good opportunity for all of us.
We show our love for them, and they could share their experience of having been persecuted because of their faith.
We believe it is a good sign from God that new Christian families are arriving in Australia after they were forced to leave their land.
It is a sign for all of us, particularly at this time of Christmas, to renew our faith with stronger ways by helping newly arrived families and learn from them how we could face the fear of terrorism by keeping our faith as a priority in our lives.
There is nothing more than faith that could make us live with dignity.
As Iraqi Christians we have lost everything because of our faith, but our real land, real house, real property is alive with Christ.
So we would like to thank the Australian authorities for embracing our Christian Catholic families and including them in the Australian immigration program, and we are grateful to all people of Australia for their kindness and care.
Let us be happy because we have in this blessed land the opportunity of strengthening the Australian multicultural society.
Chaldean leader: Archbishop Amel Nona.