Tag Archives: Iraq

What is a Legate? Iraq’s lessons for America

What does it mean to be a Legate? To be an ambassador for Christ and his Church to an often hostile, always uncomprehending world? Each of you will have your own answer, but I’d like to share mine with you.

This past January it came to me in an epiphany as I sat in front of a shattered Catholic church in an Iraqi village razed by ISIS, just after I heard the story of a Yazidi father whose two daughters were kidnapped as sex slaves. I sat on the ground, almost choking on the cordite still lingering in the air, the town protected by only a platoon of brave Kurdish soldiers with rifles. I thought of how we as Americans are protected — by the most powerful military in world history. And I listened.

He gave me all the details, trying to keep together his human dignity, but I could see it was a struggle. There is nothing that undermines a man’s sense of honor like being helpless to protect his loved ones from violence. What he didn’t know is that I understood him better than he could imagine. I lost a daughter to abortion when I was 17 — I found out about it afterward, when it was too late and my daughter was dead. So I know that feeling of humiliation and rage. It’s something no parent should have to experience. That awareness is what drove me to the prolife movement, to protect the vulnerable from violence.

That same mission is what sent me to Iraq, to film a documentary on the threats to religious minorities, especially local Christians. I met with victimized families, courageous Kurdish, Arab and Christian soldiers who were manning the front lines against the ultimate evil — a radical cult that justifies sex trafficking in the name of God, that beheads helpless Christians and Muslims who won’t support them. While the sights, sounds and smells were very different, the spirit I encountered was exactly the same as I see whenever I visit crisis pregnancy centers across America: ordinary, sometimes partly broken people, rallying their strength to confront the face of evil, to serve their fellow human beings as images of Christ.

That’s what I think it means to be a Legate — to lean out of your comfort zone, to look for opportunities to serve the persecuted, to ask uncomfortable questions and be willing to take the heat. We as Americans have the immense privilege of living in a mostly orderly country, in mostly safe neighborhoods with enormous opportunities for social mobility and achievement.

I was born to working-class teen parents. I doubt most of my fellow Legates coasted to success on inherited capital. Instead, most were the beneficiaries of a largely free and transparent economy, with access to education and the chance to develop our talents. Our ancestors fought and died to make sure we had that opportunity.

Most of the world is not so privileged. Billions of people live without secure property rights, protection against tyranny, or the power to change their government. Tens of millions lack food and clean water. More than a billion are denied religious freedom, which we take for granted.

As Catholics, we are even more highly privileged. We have the fullness of truth, the untainted Gospel, along with the richest tools for understanding it — bequeathed to us by popes, councils, saints and scholars. We have no good excuse for falling for modern ideologies of evil, from socialism to radical individualism, from eugenics to euthanasia. We know better and, because of that, we have a duty to step up and tell the truth. We owe it to those who weren’t granted the full gift of faith, which sets us free.

Instead of feeling ashamed or guilty about our privilege, we should pause and be thankful for it. We should roll it around in our heads and appreciate its full extent. Then we should resolve to share it with as many of God’s creatures as possible, in whatever sphere of life we have some influence. You know your business. You know how you could use your expertise or connections to promote the Gospel of Life. Let me encourage you to use the rest of Lent to reflect on how you could best be of service. What great gift did God give you to help lift up your fellow children of God? See if by the time Easter rolls around you can be ready with a plan of action, because the world is battered and bleeding. It needs us to bring it Jesus.

JASON SCOTT JONES is a film producer, author, activist and human rights worker. He is an At-Large member of Legatus.

Desperate times for Iraqi Christians

Patrick Novecosky writes that the troubles of Iraqi Christians may soon be ours . . .

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

We live in difficult times. Others live in desperate times. Despite the 24-hour news cycle, most Americans are seemingly unaware that terrorists are wiping out Middle East Christians.

Under Saddam Hussein, the brutal dictator driven from power in 2003, radical Islam was held at bay in Iraq and anti-Christian violence was minimal. However, after Saddam’s regime fell, Christians have been under fierce attack. Millions have fled and many thousands have been butchered.

Proclaiming a caliphate (a new Islamic state) straddling Iraq and Syria, radical Islamists have swept across northern Iraq, pushing back Kurdish regional forces and driving tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities from their homes.

With the rise of the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) over the summer, Christian homes have been painted with the Arabic letter  ن  (nūn) for Nassarah (an Arabic word for Christian). The jihadists declared that all Christians must leave or be killed. Thousands have been slaughtered, often beheaded.

It’s so bad that Pope Francis told reporters force is necessary to stop the insurgents. Asked if he approved of U.S. strikes against ISIS, the Pope said, “In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor.”

Being so far removed from the violence, most Americans are more concerned about the national economy, the mid-term elections and their own personal issues. In a country with a relatively stable political environment, it’s hard to wrap our heads around the situation in Iraq. But we must for two important reasons.

First, Jesus made it clear that his followers make up his Body, the Church (Rom 12:5-6). When one part of the Body of Christ is threatened, we are all threatened. We must be in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world, praying for them and with them.

Second, military analysts say that the U.S. is more vulnerable to attack now than before 9/11. ISIS is armed, wealthy, and determined. Their leaders have made it clear that they have no intention of stopping with Iraq and Syria. They intended to ride the wave of violence all the way to North Africa. The jihadists beheaded an American journalist in mid-August, and they say that the United States is on their hit list.

The bottom line is that it’s sackcloth and ashes time. Christians in America must repent and turn back to the Lord with all their hearts or the prospect for peace will remain out of reach.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is the editor-in-chief of Legatus magazine.

An extended version of this editorial may be found at Novecosky’s blog. Click here.