Lopez: A true example of forgiveness and love

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By Kathryn LopezSyndicated Columnist
“I forgave ISIS.”
An Iraqi Christian in Jordan sitting in what looks to be a church auditorium gives her testimony. “We love our enemy, even the ones that hurt us.”
Her videotaped testimony is part of an exhibit recently on display at New York Encounter, an annual faith event held in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

I thought of her as Washington, D.C. gathered to pray and talk about praying at the National Prayer Breakfast. I thought, too, of Pope Francis’ recent instruction to an audience at the Vatican: “Desire always the salvation of those who offend us.”

That’s a tall order. And yet that’s what Christianity is about. And the Christians who’ve had to upend their lives on account of ISIS — and those who have died refusing to recant their faith — are Exhibit A.

I recently asked the exiled Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, a city in Iraq that no longer has a diocese because ISIS drove out all the Christians there, if he’d ever had a hard conversation with one of his people who were tempted to at least go through the motions of signing up for Islam, just to keep their life and home. He answered in the negative. “I’m proud of them,” Archbishop Amel Nona told me.

The exiled Iraqi Christian in the video showing at New York Encounter beams with gratitude. “I know that God loved me … and He always took care of me. But I wasn’t paying attention, I did not know. … I never thought of things this deeply, but I realize now that God has been with me from the beginning but I was not 100 percent with him. He is present everywhere.”

In his brief address to the National Prayer Breakfast, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan rejected the idea that prayer isn’t action, an idea bruited by some in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. “I have noticed a growing impatience with prayer in our culture. You see it in the papers or on Twitter. When people say they’re praying for someone or something, the attitude in some quarters seems to be, “Don’t just pray; do something about it. But the thing is, when you are praying, you are doing something about it. You are revealing the presence of God.”

The Lord is present, indeed, in the witness of Christians who understand both the miraculous gift and the heavy responsibility of their faith, the people who tell us: “Before I had everything but I was unsatisfied, now I have nothing and I am joyful.”

The European Parliament just did what the United States hasn’t managed to: call the mass murder of Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities genocide. We might choose to look away, but it is happening out in the open, right before our eyes. Western silence about this tragedy that may leave the Middle East without Christians in the foreseeable future, in Christianity’s cradle, is a terrible scandal. Standing up for these people will make us better. These people evince a hope that much of the world so often does not understand. They have a peace and a trust that money can’t buy.

We’re knee-deep in a contentious election cycle where nothing seems certain. Our common ground — whether we are religious believers or not — may be that we have a freedom that we do not fully appreciate.

When we really think about it: So many of us have everything, but do we have joy? Are we too distracted — even with important things like family and work and politics — to remember who we are?

Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at klopez@nationalreview.com.

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