For months now, an area located in mid-western Iraq, the region of Anbar, has been hard hit. It is the region the fought the most against U.S. forces in the war and which was the hardest hit (even with the use of depleted uranium bullets which shows the inhuman face of war; the number of children born with deformities is shocking); this region has resisted the later Shiite governments.
The large proportion of Sunni residents has been the reason for the permanent rejection of the government; this has led to increasing terrorist bombs and deaths on the one hand, and to the escalation of violent retaliations by the army on the other hand. In short, there is a circle of injustice from both sides which does not seem to end and which no one seems interested in stopping. Do not forget that forgiveness is not accepted in Islam, and therefore evil must be fought with more evil.
Because of the war that is presently being waged in Syria, this conflict is also growing and nobody knows what will happen. Since Anbar province borders Syria, the same terrorists who attack and fight in Syria against the government, also carry out the same actions in Iraq. The same weapons which the Sunni monarchies give to the terrorists in Syria (with the support of some Western powers) are being used here. And the government is unable to curb the escalating violence.
Until recently, the operation of these fundamentalists consisted in attacks of various kinds. But now, they have already taken cities and strategic points of the country. Recently they captured a water dam and are causing droughts in the southern country, and flooding on the outskirts of Baghdad. And there are real battles at the gates of the capital.
Accustomed to war and post war situations, the residents of Baghdad are not fully aware of what is happening; they hardly talk about it and life goes on as normal.
The international media does not seem to be interested and this news is not read outside.
We do not know up to what point this is going to be controlled or escalated; but the sight of the fields ruined by lack of water, entire neighborhoods evacuated by floods, death of innocents, increasing hatred, and the indifference of the powerful persons of the world, lead us to ask you, friends of Iraq, for more prayers.
The other day, I spoke with an Iraqi friend who told me that she was tired of the actions of evil men. How long shall we suffer this? She remembers a life marked by war, by injustice, by hatred, by the impunity of those who do evil.
The blood of the innocent cries to Heaven and Heaven does not seem to listen.
But we who know that God became man to die for us, we cannot doubt that Heaven always listens. The “seems not to listen” is just that, something that seems to be so, but is not.
“How often we wish that God would make show himself stronger, that he would strike decisively, defeating evil and creating a better world. All ideologies of power justify themselves in exactly this way, they justify the destruction of whatever would stand in the way of progress and the liberation of humanity. We suffer on account of God’s patience.”
We suffer because of the patience of God! What a hard truth! Every man can experience, some more (as those who suffer greater evils for longer time) than others, but everyone can experience it, because the evil of the heart of man is everywhere and the patience of God is infinite.
But the Pope adds:
“And yet, we need his patience.
In the Ancient Near East, it was customary for kings to style themselves shepherds of their people. This was an image of their power, a cynical image: to them their subjects were like sheep, which the shepherd could dispose of as he wished. When the shepherd of all humanity, the living God, himself became a lamb, he stood on the side of the lambs, with those who are downtrodden and killed. This is how he reveals himself to be the true shepherd: “I am the Good Shepherd . . . I lay down my life for the sheep”, Jesus says of himself (Jn 10:14f). It is not power, but love that redeems us! This is God’s sign: he himself is love.”
Because of this, God turns everything upside down: we said that “we suffer because of the patience of God”; this is a hard truth. But it is not only this. It is an incredibly consoling truth because He “stood on the side of the lambs, with those who are downtrodden and killed,” because “God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man.”
And we want to be on the side of the patience of God. May God grant us this grace.
Fr. Luis Montes, IVE
Missionary of the Institute of the Incarnate Word in Iraq