Lent Week 3: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy

Revenge or Mercy? Think how you would react to the multiple tragedies of Iraq over more than 40 years. The brutality of Saddam Hussein. The war with Iran in which a million people died. The US-led invasion in 2003. The insurgency which followed and the terror of ISIS. Of course, much of this is the story of the cycle of revenge. Mercy has been in short supply.

A desecrated font at The Church of the Immaculate Conception in the Christian town of Qaraqosh, northern Iraq

ISIS is perhaps the most extreme example of this horror. Our TV news bulletins have told many shocking stories of murder, kidnap, rape and beheadings. I have heard many stories directly from Iraqis over the last few months. It is no surprise that people are wounded, bitter, angry and not inclined to show mercy. One Iraqi Christian spoke to me about feeling betrayed by her Muslim neighbours. Some sided with ISIS, some ‘turned a blind eye’.

Some are said to have taken advantage of the Christians fleeing their villages, by looting their possessions. This self-serving response to the tragedy of others sadly is not uncommon in history or peculiar to any particular culture. It reminds me, for example, of Germany in the 1930s or of the treatment of the native people of America, Australia and New Zealand by white Europeans. We may not participate in the slaughter of others but humans are very prone to ‘turning a blind eye’ to injustice.

One Iraqi man I met last November, Salim, spoke with a rather different tone. He told the sad story of how his town had been devastated by ISIS. He told me how he and his family were driven from their home, but then he said:

“Jesus Christ tells us to love our enemies; this is what Iraqi Christians will do.”

Salim

What does mercy mean? 

Mercy is treating people better than they deserve. Forgiveness seems to go hand in hand with mercy. Perhaps mercy has to take the hand of forgiveness. The Dutch Christian, Corrie ten Boom, was held in a Nazi concentration camp in brutal conditions. After the war, she began a ministry. One day, one of the concentration camp guards met her. You can read the moving story of that meeting here.

The charred exterior of The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Qaraqosh, northern Iraq

Mercy involves us reaching out even when our feelings may not incline us to forgiveness. In that reaching out, maybe the healing process starts. Let us pray for Iraq that there will be a reaching out and that mercy will be shown and received.

Mike Simpson, CEO

1st March 2018

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