“Be strong, do not fear; your God will come” Is. 35:4
This past week on NPR, a reporter shared the compelling witness of Fr. Kahlil Jaar, a Catholic priest serving in Amman, Jordan. He and his parish are helping people fleeing ISIS in Syria and Iraq by providing them a safe place to live.
Fr. Jaar knows the plight of refugees all too well. His own family fled Palestine for Jordan in 1967. Then, on a trip to Baghdad in 2006, Fr. Jaar was captured and tortured by terrorists for 10 days. The experience left him emotionally wounded. For a long time he was afraid to sleep or listen to the news. Most of all, he was afraid of people. Somewhere along his journey, the Spirit of the Lord descended upon him and he found new life and strength.
Today, his congregation is making a difference. They provide classes for 600 refugee school children. The parish helps almost 500 families find food and rent. Fr. Jaar has even moved 8 families into his St. Mary’s parish. The man, once bound by fear, now describes himself as the happiest priest in the world.
Some bishops, afraid of losing the Holy Land, want Christians to remain in Iraq and Syria. Fr. Jaar had a different view, one we should all consider. He said, “Holy Land is every land where a Christian can live (their) faith. The Holy Land is anywhere that we can find good people, not only Christian. It could be Buddhist or Muslim or I don’t know. Where good people live, their land is holy.”
Even though they are separated by thousands of years, Fr. Jaar’s community has so much in common with Isaiah’s. Each knows the reality of abandonment, isolation and violence. Isaiah tells his refugee people, to “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come.” These words are not just some ancient wish written by a mythical being. They are an enduring truth. Each day the reality of them comes to life in Fr. Jaar’s parish of St. Mary’s in Amman, Jordan.
Whatever your situation, breathe in these words, “Be strong, do not be afraid; your God will come.” For we know where God is present hope and peace fills the soul with joy.
Click to read: Isaiah 35
Reflection Questions: When have you experienced abandonment or isolation? How were you able to reconnect with life? Were you able to reconnect? How can you engage with the world in a way that breathes peace? Where is God present in your life today?