This summer, as accounts were unfolding of the forced exodus of Iraqi Christians from Mosul and its environs, I changed my picture here on WordPress as well as Facebook to this haunting image of the Arabic letter “noun”, which had been popping up as a sign of solidarity among Christians (and even a few other kind sympathizers) of various stripes, once I learned its significance.
I’ve contemplated changing it but have never found a good enough moment or reason to. After all, despite the news cycle’s limited attention span, the suffering of our exiled brothers and sisters continues with no resolution in sight. The painful irresolution in the references and descriptions I’ve continued to see have so far kept me with this image.
And then a good friend of mine, who is also using the same picture, posted this moving call to prayer, which I share here with her permission.
I keep looking at my profile picture, thinking “it’s time to change it”.
But this stays my hand – Come, let us keep praying.
Let us keep praying for those who are dying around the world in witness of the Gospel – esp. in Syria, Iraq, Egypt.
Let us keep praying for those who are dying senseless deaths at the hands of injustice. Those who are persecuted, oppressed, lonely, forgotten, beaten, murdered, consumed as mere cogs in a materialistic, selfish culture.
The elderly who are abandoned. The children who are exploited. The men and women who are raped. The women and men who are imprisoned. The people whose lives are suffocated in a darkness that they cannot escape. Darknesses which are physical, mental, financial, emotional and spiritual.
Let us not forget them – the “them’s” of the world whose faces and names and hearts we may never know – come, let us love them in a way that draws us closer to them, closer to our human sufferings, in the mystery of Christ’s own suffering – let us pray.
Let us lift our prayers, hopes, and fears to the One who can help, who will be there with them in their suffering; who will be with us in our suffering;
the One who promises peace though we know not its timing; the One in whom we hope for healing and Life.
No, I will keep this symbol that reminds us of our suffering human family, Christian and otherwise.
It is a reminder to pray. Come, let us pray.
The tone and content of my friend’s words reminded me of Pope Francis, who, for all his emphasis on joy, is also a man of deep and impassioned lament over human suffering, especially that of the vulnerable at the hands of what he often terms “throwaway culture”. So I too will keep this symbol a little while longer, and I will keep praying for all of these and more.
I will close here with the O Antiphon for December 21, which seems particularly fitting.
O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Amen. Maranatha, come, Lord Jesus.