Catholics in various parts of the U.S. have organized efforts to pray for peace in Iraq, especially for persecuted Christians.
The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ international justice and peace committee, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, has called for collective prayer for peace in Iraq on Aug. 17 using a prayer written by the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon.
“Lord, the plight of our country is deep and the suffering of Christians is severe and frightening,” reads the prayer of Patriarch Louis Rafael I Sako. “Therefore, we ask you Lord to spare our lives, and to grant us patience, and courage to continue our witness of Christian values with trust and hope.”
“Lord, peace is the foundation of life; grant us the peace and stability that will enable us to live with each other without fear and anxiety, and with dignity and joy,” the prayer concludes. “Glory be to you forever.”
The bishop noted the struggles of Christians and other minorities in Iraq. Militants with the Islamic State have burned and looted churches, homes, and businesses, and have threatened those who do not convert to Sunni Islam.
Bishop Pates cited Pope Francis’ call for peace, citing the Pope’s declaration that “violence generates more violence” and dialogue is “the only path to peace.”
The bishop encouraged Catholics to tell their legislators about their concerns for Christians and other religious minorities suffering in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere.
The Archdiocese of Washington is encouraging Catholics to say a prayer attributed to St. Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
The archdiocese is also encouraging fasting. It encourages sharing the story of persecuted Christians on social media under the hashtag “#WeAreN.” The hashtag refers to the first letter of the word “Nusrani,” indicating “Christian.” Militants are painting nun, the Arabic equivalent of “N”, on the homes of Christians to target them for harassment and violence.
In the Archdiocese of New York, Holy Innocents parish is holding a prayer vigil for peace Aug. 11. Marking the feast of the transitus of St. Clare of Assisi, it will include Mass at the parish, followed by a candlelight prayer rally at Manhattan's Herald Square.
In the Archdiocese of Denver, Archbishop Samuel Aquila will host an interreligious prayer gathering for Middle East peace at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Aug. 11. Together with the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon’s ecumenical and interfaith office, the effort aims to halt the murder of Christians and the destruction of Christians’ homes, properties, and churches.
“Though no simple resolution to these tragedies is readily apparent, we, as people of faith, cannot help but be moved to respond in some way,” Archbishop Aquila said.
The prayer effort also seeks an end to the persecution of Jewish and Muslim minorities in the Middle East.
Representatives at the event will include Catholic and Orthodox Churches from the Middle East; Protestant and Catholic representatives from Western Christianity; and Jews and Muslims.
“We are coming together as a people who believe in God … proud of our diversity, yet honored to call one another brothers and sisters, to celebrate and protect the civilization of diversity, peace, love and co-existence,” said Father Andre-Sebastian Mahanna, pastor of St. Rafka Maronite parish in Lakewood and director of the Maronite eparchy’s interfaith office.
The prayer service will include readings from the Pentateuch, the New Testament, and the Koran, as well as hymns and prayers for peace.
The Our Father will be chanted in Hebrew, Syro-Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and English. There will be prayers in Arabic, as well.
Archbishop Aquila will deliver a statement expressing solidarity on behalf of the religions gathered.