BRANFORD – To stand in solidarity with Iraqi Christians who are being persecuted and killed, members of St. Mary Parish handed out bumper stickers with the Arabic symbol “N” and the phrase “We are N” after Masses Aug. 16 and 17.
“N” is the first Arabic symbol in the word for Nazarene or Christian, and it is being painted on houses to target them for attack.
The bumper stickers were created in response to a call from the U.S. bishops for a Day of Prayer in the U.S. for Christians in Iraq who are being persecuted by ISIS militants.
Father Christopher M. Ford, pastor of St. Mary’s, spoke during the Masses about the plight of Christians in Iraq.
“The readings were on the universal call of salvation,” said Father Ford. “There are many hotspots around the world now. But in particular, our hearts go out to Christians of Iraq and other minority groups.”
“The archbishop [Leonard P. Blair] asked us to pray for our fellow Christians,” he noted. “So we wanted to do something to raise awareness over the fact that they’re being persecuted.”
He noted that since last June, the militants have been attacking Christians in the city of Mosul and the surrounding area. ISIS militants have been spray-painting the symbol on the houses of Christians in Mosul to designate which houses to attack, pillage and even destroy.
Parishioners were informed in the parish bulletin that families there are being threatened to convert to Islam or be killed. Already, “many faithful men, woman and children have been martyred for the faith,” it read, “while others have fled to surrounding cities to find refuge.”
On Aug. 13, Pope Francis urged the international community “to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy” under way with Christians trapped on Mount Sinjar. Since then, and following relief efforts provided by the United States government to families trapped on the mountain, manyof the Christians there have been allowed to escape.
Kurdish officials and humanitarian aid workers say, however, that hundreds of thousands of Christians displaced by the extremists are still at risk as they seek shelter.
Father Ford worked with parochial vicar Father Robert N. Landback and Emily Dunphy, administrative assistant, to design and print the bumper stickers for the Aug. 17 Day of Prayer.
The oval decals are designed with the Arabic “N” for Nazarene; the Chaldean Cross; the phrase “We are N,” which is being used in the prayer movement around the world; and the words “We Stand With Iraqi Christians.”
“It’s not unlike the Star of David that Nazis put on houses during the Holocaust,” said Father Ford. “It’s unspeakable.”
We take our faith for granted,” said Father Ford, who noted that for the first time in 1,600 years, Sunday Mass was not celebrated in Mosul. “So we had a moment of silence during the Creed. We can profess the Creed in our country, but they can’t. They have to profess it with their lives.”
Parishioners were visibly moved by and appreciative of the expression of solidarity.
“Most of us feel so helpless as we watch from a distance,” said parishioner Lisa Arpin. “But the bumper sticker is a reminder to us that we can keep praying.”