In between reading assignments, I chanced upon an article from CNA about a priest, Fr. Jacques Mourad, who was held captive by ISIS for five months last year before successfully escaping and resettling in Europe.
The piece was an interview, and therein Fr. Mourad covers a little bit of everything from the situation of Middle Eastern Christians to American policy in his homeland, Syria. What comes through most during these parts of the interview is his weariness, his disgust:
The US has been bombing Syria and Iraq for years, and now the Russians are doing so, too. And what have they achieved? Have they stopped the terrorist violence? Absolutely not!
But even more striking than his righteous indignation, than his utter sadness at the loss of his home—its culture and religious heritage—is his commitment to love;
Last spring, I had the following inspiration during Mass: our world needs a revolution against violence. Only then will it be able to find peace. We want to be instruments of peace.
It’s striking: this is the sort of fortitude and innocence one expects of the martyrs, whose pain and suffering God transmutes into eternal sweetness. But it’s more than that: Fr. Mourad moves from discussing politics to discussing what it is that he can and has done to foster the peace he desires—a peace at this moment hardly discernible through the blood and rubble:
That has been my personal experience. We – all the Christians of my old parish – decided not to resort to violence, even despite the danger. That is why we are still alive […] This is how we did it in Mar Elian – we provided aid to the local people without considering any distinctions of religion.
That is, Fr. Mourad enacts what St. Augustine might have called loving and doing what one will, or what Dorothy Day termed a “revolution of the heart.” He’s reminding us that, just as politics happens within and around us every day, influencing what we can and cannot do, so do we shape our politics, make up our families, communities, and societies—even when, as in his case, these things have been snatched away. Your vote matters, but so does your patience with your kids, your kindness to your neighbor, even your smile as you pass your coworker.
Whether an election year or not, that’s immensely important to keep in mind: that any change we wish to see in the world must begin with ourselves, through the grace of God. And who could know that better than a priest who has stared evil in the face?