Washington -- In observance of a week promoting awareness of Christians persecuted internationally, the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil offered a Mass in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday for victims of the Islamic State, stating that suffering offer opportunities for kindness.
"Is there a blessing in being persecuted for the faith?" Archbishop Bashar Warda asked Nov. 28.
"The grace of being persecuted: God shows his love and care through the solidarity being shown by those outside. Also, the suffering gives a chance to people of a good will to show their love."
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Organized by Catholic agencies including Knights of Columbus and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Mass was held at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C. A day of prayer was held on the previous Sunday for Islamic State victims, all part of "Solidarity in Suffering: a Week of Awareness for Persecuted Christians."
Islamic State invaded Iraq in 2014, forcing a large majority of Christians to seek refuge in or near Erbil. There, Archbishop Warda has helped displaced Christians return to their homes and has overseen a humanitarian efforts to provide basic necessities for displaced communities.
Although it is not the positive will of God for his people to suffer, he said, it is an opportunity for Christians to learn how to love and to find their identity in God.
"When we give with love and receive with love, we learn to be the children of God who gives with love and delights in our prayers," he said.
Archbishop Warda applauded a promise of US vice president Mike Pence to provide more aid to the people in Iraq, and thanked the humanitarian aid funded thus far by the Knights of Columbus.
The Knights of Columbus has committed more $17 million to aid minorities persecuted in the Middle East, including $2 million to help rebuild the predominantly Christian town of Karemlesh, located fewer than 20 miles southeast of Mosul.