As much as my thoughts have been focused on the unspeakable sorrows of the Christians of Iraq as their ancient civilization is dismantled while the world busies itself with other matters, it occurred to me that I ought to be praying much, much more for their vicious persecutors, those men whose consciences are so blinded by ideology that they pulled a three-year-old from his grandfather's protecting arms and shot the child in the head out of spite. The loss of cathedrals and monasteries and manuscripts pales before the execution of a toddler. And only today is the news beginning to get picked up by the world press. Indeed, it was the Vatican newspaper that this morning broke the story that the BBC and CNN began posting this afternoon: female genital mutilation is the new order of the day under Iraq's self-proclaimed Caliphate.
I've been retweeting items on this over the past several days, hardly believing the news (and yet finding it confirmed via Vatican radio, the Fides news service and Al Arabiya news service; Al Jazeera? Not so much!) Today I got responses from two Muslims, one in London who expressed some doubts, at least about the FGM part: "Sunni Muslims are against FGM and ISIS is Sunni" ; another response was supportive of ISIS, claiming "Due to reduction in prices & Crime become 0% Public R happy with ISIS Controlled Area, Tax on Christian 2% & Muslim 2.50%." (Right. The criminals are in charge.)
Obviously, none of the powers that be in this world are anxious to rescue hundreds of thousands of Christian refugees in one of the world's troubled spots. Does that mean we (and they) are utterly helpless?
I got to thinking about another time when a brilliant and fanatically violent man was devastating the Church. What if we began an intense campaign of prayer to St Paul for the conversion of "Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi" (given name, Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai).
In the interest of promoting just such a campaign, I offer a prayer:
O Glorious Apostle Paul,
persecutor of the Church who became its most ardent preacher,
we commend to you Abu Bakr al-Baghadi.
He was created for eternal life with God,
but he has now given himself over to unspeakable evil.
Intercede, St Paul, for this new persecutor of Christ's Body.
Turn his life around as completely as yours was, that day on the Damascus Road.
Obtain for him the unmerited and unexpected grace
of coming to know Christ Jesus as Lord and Christians as his very Body,
that his life may bear fruits of grace and not works of death,
for the Glory of God and peace to humanity.