An Iraqi woman testifies how the young men of Baghdad celebrated the Feast of The Holy Cross amid solidarity for their refugee brothers, fear of the advance of ISIS and the hope of faith.
In an age that reinforces a culture of war and faith in military violence and militant religious mainstreams as a means to resolve social and political conflicts, the feast of the exaltation of the Holy Cross comes again to confirm the power of love of the crucifix over the power of death. According to worldly standards, it is illogical to extoll the cross as a pathway to a new life, as a passage to heaven and freedom since it is a symbol of pain and shame to many; “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (See 1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
With such a belief in their hearts, Iraqi Christians celebrated on Sunday, 14th/ 09/2014 the Feast of the Holy Cross in more than fourteen churches in Baghdad at a time when they do seriously feel the heaviness of the cross they are carrying. Christians of Baghdad, specially the youth, were rejoicing in this holy feast, knowing that everyone has his own individual cross and collective ones as well. What convincing meaning this feast may have for us while our own people are suffering in the North, those who have been displaced and robbed of their all possessions and of their life by ISIS militants!? Can there really be anything more terrible than that? What could be worse than discriminating and persecuting innocent civilians on basis of their faith to fulfill a big political and regional game? But the Holy Spirit reminds us that no disciple is better than his master and this awareness would lead us into a deeper desire to work for justice and peacemaking.
What is so dreadful and the cause of so much anguish for the Christians and other minorities in Iraq is becoming an inspiring motive for the remaining faithful in Baghdad to live their daily life with joy despite the pain. As much as there are Christians fleeing their land, there are others who seem to have the will to move forward with much love to the Crucifix, facing such calamities. No matter how much fear they have of the future, His loving sacrifice on the cross is sufficient to remind them of the more glorious outcome, His resurrection.
No wonder that hard times are also meant to bring us together, to reflect on such hardships faced by our displaced people, encouraging us, and the Church to “take on new commitments of solidarity, communion and evangelization”, as Pope Francis emphasizes. It has become so important for the church to enlighten its people about the meaning behind their faith in the face of a culture of war, death, fear, and religious mainstreams, especially the ones that are misused by politics and power. As a consecrated virgin living in this atmosphere, and as youth director at the Latin Cathedral of St. Joseph, I still see in the eyes of the young generations a sparkle that looks for tomorrow; I see their dreams that never go beyond living their age, living their lives in peacefulness and safety with a desire to be assured that the next day will bring a new ray of hope. I do believe that our young Christians will never fail to keep their zealous hearts burning with the love of their country and their redeemer, the God of love who came to bring a better and more fulfilling life for them. “God’s love is so great that He saves us in this way: with this identity in the Cross. You can’t understand Jesus Christ, the redeemer” says the Holy Father, “without the Cross”. With such a belief, we pray to the Lord that we continue giving a true testimony to our faith despite all the existing challenges and danger that tend to extinguish the flame of life.
Anan Alkass Yousif, Ph.D.
Instructor at the Department of English, College of Arts/University of Baghdad