Why Iran Matters to Catholics Like You and Me

As the street protests in Iran move into their second week we must wonder, just what is it, that is taking place?  There are so many questions and so little information from commentators with the experience to tell us just what it is that is happening.  The first question that comes to mind is, just why does this matter and what has it got to do with me?  Ok, Iran is where the oil comes from, but other than that, what’s the impact on my life and that of my family?  After all, there are 70 million Iranians and there are just 17,000 Catholics there.

Well, for starters, these people are human beings.  The social teaching of solidarity requires that we recognize the value and dignity of each human person as a reflection of God’s divine creation.  At the minimum we should be praying for them and all our fellow human beings who do not live in free societies where they are guaranteed certain freedom’s that represent the bare minimum of human rights.  Freedom to assemble, to speak your mind, to exercise your faith tradition are rights that we in the United States take for granted but which ordinary Iranians are denied.  In a very real way, the street protests have been a spontaneous outpouring of response to the decades long repression of those rights.  The obvious occurrence of the vote rigging that took place during the presidential elections, thus the disenfranchisement of the right to have their votes counted is what sparked the response from all levels of Iranian life.  From student to merchant, the people are in the street saying, “We won’t take this anymore”.

Next, Iran is a key player when it comes to the struggle in the Middle East.  As the home to the largest population  Shia Muslims, Iran has been ruled for over thirty years by clerics whose end game is control of holy places of Mecca and Medina, currently under the protection of the Saudi royal family, practitioners of Sunni Islam. Every day life in the middle east is caught up in one way or the other with this struggle.  Iran’s rhetoric of hatred toward the US and the modern state of Israel is merely window dressing for the fact that Arabs, Iran is culturally Persian and has never accepted Arabic culture, control the holiest of places in the Muslim world. It is further challenged by the fact that that rule was established by the then British empire and maintained by its support from the US.

To this end, the ruling regime in Iran has sought for thirty years to destabilize the Saudi royal family by destabilizing its neighboring Arab states.  Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian Authority, Iraq all have revolutionary movements being funded by and influenced by Iranian leadership.  The civil war in Bosnia was largely influenced by the Iranian involvement in arming the Bosnian Muslims and was a gathering point of the so called “Holy Warriors” who later became part and parcel of the terror network known as Al Qaeda. 

While Al Qaeda is made up primarily of Sunni Muslims, they share the goal of removing the Saudi royal family from the throne and so, ally themselves with the regime in Tehran.  All of these countries are home to significant populations of Christian communities, many of them in communion with Rome and as such members of the Roman Catholic Church and those not in communion share much of the same cultural heritage that we Roman Catholics do. 

Almost all of the Christian communities in the Middle East and the Holy Land exist as members of a persecuted minority and as such require our assistance.  A free and democratic Iran, one that is no longer an exporter of violence  could mean an opportunity for real reconciliation in the Middle East and hope for our Christian brothers and sisters who struggle daily to eke out a living in these countries so preoccupied with security measures and just trying to survive the day.

Next, the price of oil.  Iran is a key member of OPEC.  As we saw just 8 months ago, any significant interruption in the stability of the oil producing cartel has the direct effect of spiking the price of oil futures and thus driving the cost of all energy consumption and related pricing through the roof.  In this time of global recession the last thing the world economy needs is a spike in energy costs due to the political struggle in Iran which will keep taking place until Iranians have a government that acknowledges the human rights of its citizens.

So, what do we do about it?  What can we do about it?  The answer is as simple as it is difficult to do.  Pray. Particularly the Rosary.  Each of us, by virtue of our Baptism,  belongs to the mystical body of Christ, the church militant. God has called us to a life of holiness and yes, to be our brother’s keeper.  The first step in any good work is to pray.  In this case it seems obvious that  we are called to pray for a peaceful resolution in this ongoing drama on the streets of Tehran, but also we are called to conversion in our personal life, that is to turn our hearts to God and to try and serve Him as He would have us serve Him with our individual life. 

The message of Fatima is one of conversion, and it seems particularly clear that Fatima is the key Marian apparition of the last 100 years.  In each of Her six appearances, the Mother of God called us each individually to prayer, the rosary in particular, and conversion that is deeper love of God.    While most of us have interpreted Fatima down through the years as a struggle between the free Christian West, and the poor enslaved people of the Communist world, funny, they were praying for us as well, the third part of the Fatima mystery, the part being played out very dramatically these past 10 years has been the violent encounter between Muslim and Christian.  Isn’t it curious that the name of that small Portuguese village carries the name of Mohamed’s favorite daughter?  Isn’t it curious that Mary is revered in the Koran as a holy lady  and that Fatima is one of the shrines in the world most visited by Muslims?  Wouldn’t this curiosity alone spark an interest in and deeper study of the Fatima message in light of the times we are living in?

And what about Medjugorje whose anniversary we observe this Wednesday June 24, the Feast of  the Nativity of  John the Baptist?  Isn’t it curious that when the alleged apparitions were first said to have taken place this village was a humble backwater town whose name was unpronounceable and whose rulers were, what were they called again?  Oh, yeah, Communists, a political ideology that does not even exists anymore.  What is the unique thing about Medjugorje?  The three faith communities that make comprise that village are Roman Catholic, Serbian Orthodox and Muslim.  And somehow they have found a way to live together.  The message of apparitions?  Peace through prayer, particularly the rosary  and personal conversion to holiness.

And what about the name of the defeated candidate for President in Iran.  The guy, whose candidacy has tipped off this whole movement?  Mir Hossein Mousavi? What are the chances that his first name, Mir would also be the Croatian word for peace?

So yes, this thing in Iran does matter.  It matters a great deal as is evident by the people risking their lives in the streets of Tehran.  So, for our brother’s in harm’s way and living in a repressed social system, I ask us each to pray, pray the rosary, pray for conversion, pray for peace.