When Peace Meets War
Updated: Mar 21
As an outsider, you hardly know what is happening inside. Although we know a little from the media about the war-stricken country of Iraq there is least we can do to help salvage the citizens. Those who lost their lives in the war might have been Christians but they were human beings in the first place. Humanity therefore should take the first precedence. Terrorism in no way can solve problems although one may force one’s ideas onto the other. Those ideas will shine but fade sooner.
It is the first time a Pope has visited Iraq, that too at an unstable time and a time when the coronavirus cases are drastically increasing in Iraq. The earlier Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI attempted to visit Iraq but they couldn’t, due to various circumstances. Now too, Pope Francis had suggestions to either postpone the visit or cancel it. But Pope Francis in his attempt to walk in the footsteps of his patron, Saint Francis of Assisi who went to Egypt and spoke to the people 800 years ago, didn’t decide otherwise.
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While many consider this a political visit Pope Francis is clear that he had to visit his flock that needed him the most. The visit of Pope Francis brought the silent streets of Qaraqosh bursting with joy. The visit of the Pope encouraged the dwindling Christian population of 250000. He has brought a smile on many faces irrespective of which strata of society they belong to. Pope Francis in his deliberations in Iraq has been clear that there is a dire need to fight corruption and work for justice.
Joe Sacco a comic artist and journalist who presents war in his book, ‘Palestine’ makes it clear to us that every individual citizen has a story to tell. Whether it is in Palestine or Iraq each citizen has personal experience to narrate. And when war strikes there is a distortion of family life, relationships, and livelihood. Peace is interfered with. Joe Sacco artistically presents the horror of war and awakens the reader to the fact that violence is not an option. Visual literature of this sort does influence great minds but that doesn’t suffice. That is where the attempt of Pope Francis and his visit to this war-stricken country becomes relevant and necessary.
The historical visit of the Pope and the meeting at the historical site in the city of Ur where Abraham, the father of faith was born is important to clarify that humanity or human being is of utmost importance. Pope is aiming at the unity of all people belonging to different faiths. For quite some time the citizens of Iraq were under tension and violence.
They needed someone to give them hope that they are not forgotten, that there is someone who cares for them. Pope Francis becomes that influential voice to make the government of Iraq understand that it is high time to work towards the betterment of the people, and encourage peace and harmony. Pope Francis is loved not just by the Christians in Iraq but also the other people of a different faith.
We need to remind ourselves that Iraq has been attacked again and again, and in recent times Baghdad was attacked. Despite the security concerns Pope Francis pays a visit to the country. Perhaps he has a bigger message to give to the whole world through the example of this country. Iraq is known for terrorism for the longest time, the conflicts among the Muslims themselves and the confusions created by ISIS, and so on.
The lent season reminds us of the passion and death of Christ. It reminds us that we fail and we need the grace of God to walk in His footsteps. It is only by His grace that we are able to face and overcome temptations, trials, and tribulations of any sort. The scared Christians of Iraq now receive that comforting hug in the presence of the head of the Church himself. They should consider this a moment of grace for them to overcome the persecution they undergo. Through this great witness of Pope Francis to Iraq, we too as witnesses of Christ get the feel of how powerful and courageous our every step must be.
Pope Francis on October 4, 2020, had published his third encyclical ‘Fratelli tutti’ which spoke about social friendships. He said, “If every human being possesses an inalienable dignity, if all people are my brothers and sisters, and if the world truly belongs to everyone, then it matters little whether my neighbour was born in my country or elsewhere.” His visit to Iraq was basically to let them know that we are all one. And religion shouldn’t divide humanity. Religion must help one to have a divine experience of the Lord and help dignify life.
Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq for the first time will leave a positive influence on the people and is sure to enthuse them with vigor to live their lives emphatically. Especially the Christians will be encouraged, enough and more, to live for harmony and peace. And the martyrs in war are sure to experience peace with the divine visit of the epitome of peace himself.
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