Please read this letter below from our 2015 Keynote Speaker, Mother Olga Yacob on the situation in Iraq.
“We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be.” USCCB on Solidarity
Dear Brother and Sisters,
Peace and blessing to you. I pray this letter finds you all well.
First, I wanted to take this time to express my deep gratitude to you, your families, your parishes and your communities for your care and prayerful support for the people of Iraq, who have suffered such a catastrophic tragedy in recent weeks.
Second, inspired by today’s request from Pope Francis: “I ask all Catholic parishes and communities to offer a special prayer this weekend for Iraqi Christians,” I thought to ask for your assistance through prayers and, if it’s possible, through sharing this email with others. Saint John Paul II said on December 30, 1987, “The ‘evil mechanisms’ and ‘structures of sin’ can be overcome only through the exercise of the human and Christian solidarity to which the Church calls us and which she tirelessly promotes. Only in this way can such positive energies be fully released for the benefit of development and peace.” It is my prayer and hope that our spiritual communion in praying for those who are suffering will become a seed of solidarity that, hopefully, one day, will grow into a more peaceful world for generations to come.
As a servant of God and His people, I have served the Iraqi people from a very young age all through four wars. In those years, inspired by the teaching of Blessed Charles de Foucauld on universal brotherhood, I made an effort to learn four other local languages besides my Aramaic native language in order to be of service to all: Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Chaldeans, and Armenians. Given the large percentage of Muslim communities in Iraq, I also chose to study Islam according to the tradition of both Shias and Sunnis, for two years so as to be of service to them. Through those years of serving in various villages and among many different ethnic groups and tribes, I became a strong believer of the power of solidarity that creates a bridge for healing and reconciliation.
The devastating reality of the last month and a half in Iraq stirred up in my heart the old memories from my homeland. In the last few weeks, despite the darkness of hatred, revenge, persecution, humiliation and death, I could not let go of the hope that the light of healing, reconciliation, human respect and honor of each others’ religion and tradition, that I saw for decades of growing up in a land that is made up of all these tribes, ethnic groups, and religious communities, would not be extinguished. It was my confidence in this hope that led me to reach out to most of you, other religious and humanitarian organizations, and most of all, to have a daily contact with the Catholic leaders in Iraq.
These are some of the ways that we, together, can help build solidarity for peace:
1) Prayer: Yesterday, August 8th, the USCCB invited all the Catholic Dioceses in America to pray in a special way for peace in Iraq on August 17th. I was moved to tears of gratitude on behalf of all my beloved people in Iraq.
2) Raising awareness of people around us about the truth of this tragedy. Invite people to stay connected and informed. You are welcome to share the videos and the article below to help people be aware of the suffering that is taking place in Iraq.
A 14-minute interview on EWTN:
A 9-minute video that I put together as a tribute for the Iraqi people:
An interview article by Our Sunday Visitor Catholic newspaper:
2) Donations. I’m sure there are many good organizations that are trying to help. One of them is Catholic Relief Services, who has already established a special fund for Iraq. http://emergencies.crs.org/iraqi-families-flee-from-violence/
Though I consider myself like a small voice crying in the wilderness of so much pain, I am confident that “the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” This light of my hope has never diminished because of each one of you, your powerful prayers and spiritual support to the people of Iraq, and your leadership in raising awareness about the need to pray for peace.
With the assurance of my daily prayers for you and your loved ones I conclude my letter of gratitude to all of you and all the other American Bishops with the words of a traditional hymn (A Song of Peace):
“May truth and freedom come to every nation; may peace abound where strife has raged so long; that each may seek to love and build together, a world united, righting every wrong; a world united in its love for freedom, proclaiming peace together in one song.”
Gratefully yours in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,
Mother Olga of the Sacred Heart,
mother servant of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth