This poem is written for the Iraqi and Syrian Christians who were driven from their homes by ISIS in 2014. It focuses on the moment of the expulsion and the subsequent homelessness of the displaced Christians on the mountains of Iraq.
May the Lord deliver us all from evil.
* * * * *
For the Syriac Christians, A.D. 2014
For fifteen hundred years, their churches stood
In living rock against the desert sands.
Beset and small, they weathered out a world
Of Persians, Mongols, Arabs, Ottomans,
The French and British, and in these last days
Perplexed Iraqis and Americans:
All came by turns. But no one ever tore
The crosses down, or hushed the hallowed bells.
July nineteenth, two thousand and fourteen,
The bells fell silent. Thousand-year-old doors
Broke open, and the crosses crumbled down.
The churchbells ring no more. Outside the walls,
Outside the cities, churches meet to pray
On open mountain, with the rock for floors.
The Eastern Catholic and the Orthodox,
The Maronites, the Protestants as well:
All Christians gather houseless and outcast.
The bishops, pastors, priests and patriarchs
Go homeless up and down the harried flock
To bring the word and body of the Lord.
O Peter, on this very living rock
I build My church. The ravages of time
Shall not prevail against it, nor the wars
Of all the ages, nor the gates of Hell.