Called To Act - November 2016
The Campaign to Drive ISIS from MOSUL, IRAQ
Since the campaign began a few weeks ago to liberate Mosul, Iraq from the malevolent grip of ISIS, our Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena of Mosul have been sending graphic photos of the villages and towns which ISIS took from the Iraqi people two years ago. These are the first images taken of their hometowns since they fled for their lives in the evening of August 6, 2014. The devastation is horrific. What was “home” to centuries of Iraqi Christian, Yezidis, Kaka’i and Shebak minorities as well as Muslims has been reduced to burned out buildings, desecrated churches and convents, as well as rampaged and bullet ridden residence and businesses. What was once a thriving and integrated Iraqi community on the Nineveh plain is a place ravaged by the unspeakable atrocities of the so-called “Islamic State.” As they anxiously wait for the outcome of the campaign to drive out ISIS from northern Iraq, I cannot imagine the sadness and desolation of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who ISIS drove from Mosul and the surrounding villages in order to establish their caliphate there.
Since my first trip to Iraq in 1999, my most recent in 2015, and throughout other visits to Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, my heart has been seared in solidarity for the people of this part of the world. The contribution of Arabs and Kurds to global civilization is legend—astronomy, mathematics, engineering, language, art, music, religion, as well as a deeply defining culture of hospitality and generosity to visitors. Even now, in the midst of on-going conflicts and massive displacements of people across the region, the warmth, welcome and generosity of the people bespeaks their integrity and stature among other global cultures. Although the modern media often reduces the Middle East as a fractious and dangerous part of the world, the long history of living with diversity of culture, beliefs and language remains strength of the people of this region and I pray that it will soon take root again in the soil of a sustainable peace.
The days, months and years ahead for the people of northern Iraq will be challenging and full of the desolation of war-refugees. How will they find the strength and resolve to begin again? How will the ethnic and religious minorities find assurance of their protection and their human rights? How will countries like ours regard our responsibilities toward Iraq in light of the many missteps in initiating a war that unleashed the conditions for the chaos that has followed? How can our nation continue the policy of limiting refugees’ resettlement from this region given our culpability for these massive migrations?
If you are interested in following the journey of the Iraqi people and the Dominican Sisters of Mosul, as they contemplate their return to their homeland, I invite you to visit the website http://www.hnroiraq.org/en/our-mission to read about the work of our Dominican Sisters in the Humanitarian Relief Efforts. Iraqi Dominican Sister Diana Momeka, OP is the co-founder of this organization.
If you would like to listen to recent interview on WYNC of Archbishop Warda of Iraq who describes the challenge of return to the Nineveh Plan for Christians and other minorities go to http://www.wnyc.org/story/iraqi-archbishop-looks-for-reconciliation/.
Sister Arlene Flaherty, O.P.