At one point in his life, St. Ignatius Loyola wanted above all to live in the Middle East, in the land of Christ. Ignatius resolved to go to Palestine and never return home.
As things turned out, he had to return to Europe. The Franciscan superior ordered him to leave Palestine, because the situation had become perilous, due to a war.
It appears that the fighters who have taken over a lot of Syria and Iraq, who call themselves ‘Islamic State,’ have systematically sought to rid the land of Christians–and Shia Muslims, for that matter. The Islamic State fighters have committed obscene atrocities with spurious religious justifications, justifications which mainstream Muslim leaders have strenuously denounced.
For a millennium and a half, the original Christian people, the Christians of the Levant, have lived at peace with Muslim neighbors. We recall how, eleven months ago, the church leaders of the Middle East, along with the Pope, begged the western military powers not to attack Syria and foment the civil war there. We recall how, over a decade ago, the same leaders, and Pope St. John Paul II, begged us not to invade Iraq.
Perhaps we can understand a little better now why the Christians of the Middle East made these pleas for peace. It was not simply a matter of naïve pacificism.
Our war in Iraq certainly looks like the fiasco of the 21st century at this point, but that’s not for me to say. What I do know is that we need to pray very hard for our suffering brothers and sisters who live in the land where the Lord called the patriarchs and prophets to Himself, and where He, in Person, walked the earth.