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.