7 April 2015
IRAQI KURDISTAN REFLECTION: Praying for God to forgive ISIS at the Easter
by Sandra Stevens
He is Risen!
Yesterday the team awoke at 4:00 a.m. to travel to the Chaldean Monastery for an Easter Sunrise
Service. When we arrived we went through the usual routine of passing through
the security detail, having our bags hand searched and being patted down for
weapons. (Men only, since there were no women assigned to the detail.) Stepping
across the threshold into the courtyard of the monastery we noticed that it was
very quiet. A few people were awake but the day had not yet started. It would be a work day for most, since Easter
and Sundays are not holidays or days off in Kurdistan.
When I first came to the monastery several years
ago it was a place for quiet reflection and meditation, a retreat center
staffed by two priests and one sister. Now it is a refugee center for the IDPs—internally
displaced persons—from Mosul, Qaraqosh and other Christian communities from
Iraq and Syria. As the time of the service approached, the people living in the
monastery, Christian Kurds and internationals, began to file in and the service,
led by Father Jens, began. The service was in Arabic and English, one part,
like the Apostle’s Creed, read in Arabic, the blessing for Host in English,
then the wine, in Arabic. One of the more powerful points during the worship
came when the Christians in the church prayed for God to forgive Al-Bagdadi,
ISIS, Al-Shabaab and finally those who most recently massacred Christians in
Kenya. As I stood there I realized I
still have much to learn about forgiveness.
My heart is still hardened by revenge after spending time in the camps
hearing the stories of the Yazidis. How could the people in that church who
have suffered so much and lost everything they owned ask God to forgive those
who have committed such horror against them? Perhaps I should open my ears and
heart to the story of Jesus’ passion and learn the lesson of Easter? Standing shoulder to shoulder with the
Christians of Iraq has taught me much about the road I still have yet to
Happy Easter…. He is Risen indeed!