Chalking for Jesus: What If We Had Listened to JPII About Iraq?

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peace chalk

I was a senior in high school when 9/11 happened, and a freshman at Notre Dame during the lead up to the US led invasion of Iraq. I joined Catholic Peace Fellowship concerned about the bombing of Afghanistan.

There are 1,500,000 Christians in Iraq. Who would Jesus bomb?

As little 18-year-old Catholics we stood with Pope John Paul II, who at the time, discouraged President Bush from pre-emptively invading Iraq, saying that an invasion would lead to the persecution and possible destruction of one of the world’s most ancient Christian communities. JPII warned that religious minorities would be targeted in the wake of an invasion. And that pre-emptive strikes violate Just War theory.

It was 2003. We prayed for peace, and marched in New York City, and wrote messages on campus sidewalks in chalk that read, “There are 1,500,000 Christians in Iraq. Who would Jesus bomb?” Students came out of their dorms with buckets of water to wash our messages away. Sometimes they washed them away as we were still writing them, but we didn’t know what else to do.

In retrospect, I wish that we had been wrong, and that what Pope John Paul II had prophesied, had not come to pass.

Today less than 200,000 Christians remain in Iraq, and ISIS has filled the void left by Saddam Hussein. In addition, the West faces a refugee crisis, as religious minorities are being driven form their homes in record numbers. This week last year ISIS obliterated the oldest Christian monastery in Iraq which US led forces had been protecting. The invasion of Iraq has broken the country, de-stabilized the region and led to more than 500,000 Iraqi deaths, and almost 5,000 U.S. deaths, and one million U.S. wounded. Last year from Crux: ISIS Obliterates Oldest Christian Monastery in Iraq.

Pope Francis said this January 2o17, “To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.”