On November 11th, Christians filled Toronto's St. Michael's Cathedral for an ecumenical prayer vigil. The intention was to pray for Christians in the Middle East and, more specifically, for the victims and mourners of the terrorist attack against the Syriac Catholic community of the Cathedral of Sayyidat an-Najat of Baghdad, Iraq. Published below the speech of Bishop Yousif Habash, bishop of the Syriac Catholic communities of the United States and Canada, translated from Arabic by Rita Sawaya.
And now I address this speech to my dear and beloved people of Iraq.
I greet the beloved Baghdad, I kiss the ground of Iraq, I purify myself with the pure water of Dijlah (Tigris) and the paradisiacal bountiful river of Furat (Euphrates). I greet the Iraqis from Zakho (in the North) to Fao (in the South). I greet every Iraqi man, woman and child, the suffering and despaired.
I ask you my beloved people, I ask you in the name of Iraq, together to reject hatred and violence, because hatred and violence do not lead anywhere other than to hardship.
My dear Iraqi people come let us learn the ABCs of mercy and forgiveness. We who were called the children of faith, the children of beloved Abraham. We, the children of the land of Divine messages, of the land of civilizations.
Is it right for us to fight each other? Is it right for us to hate each other? Is it right for us to kill each other? I think it is time for us to be ashamed of what is happening in Iraq.
We do not have the right anymore to blame the strangers. The strangers are not doing anything to destroy Iraq, but rather it is our ignorance and our hatred that are the destructive instruments.
I ask my people to be ashamed of what is happening, for it behoves the people of Iraq to transcend themselves, to exalt the torch of faith, as did our beloved Abraham, to listen to God’s voice, the voice of Peace, the voice of Goodness, to read God’s Will, in the great palm tree that invites us to transcend ourselves, and to elevate ourselves, and to look toward the Heavens.
I ask God this evening to console the heart of every Iraqi mother, be she Shiaa, Sunni, Kurdish, Christian or Yazidi. All of them are my sisters, all of them are my mothers. To them, I extend my condolences. I ask the Lord to bestow His consolation on all of them and to wipe their tears.
The Iraqi woman is not destined to spend her years weeping and lamenting. It befits the Iraqi woman to sing. It befits the Iraqi woman to rejoice as do other women.
And you, my Iraqi brother whoever you may be, I say to you: Let us fear God. Let us fear God. For generations to come what are we to bequeath to our children? Let us be ashamed of what is happening, let us come together in solidarity. We can! Because we are a people of strong-will and the children of civilizations, because we are a people of faith, we can build Iraq.
My people, as long as we unite in solidarity we can never be humiliated. We were humiliated because we were not united in solidarity.
I ask God, in the name of the blood that was shed on the ground of the Church of Sayyidat an-Najat (Our Lady of Salvation), that this blood may be a prayer offered to God for the remission of our sins, in order for peace to radiate from the Cathedral of Sayyidat an-Najat, from al-Aathamiyya (Sunni region), from al-Qathimiyya (Shiite region), from all of Iraq’s domes and sanctuaries.
Oh, God, have mercy on us. Have mercy on us O Lord, have mercy on Iraq. We believe in You, O Lord! You are merciful and forgiving. We adore you, O Lord, because You are the God of Peace and Grace.
My love, deep affection and sincere condolences I extend to all of the Iraqi men and women in our pure land and to the Iraqi men and women here present.
May God bless the land of Iraq. May God bless Canada and every land the Iraqi people dwell in and may He alleviate our suffering.
Amen, and thank you.