Simple nun just might have started something in America

While listening to a simple diminutive Iraqi nun speak last Friday evening at St. Leonard Church in Boston's historic North End, my first reaction was, "I wish President Obama and other world leaders were here to listen to her profound and compelling message about the suffering and tortured Christian community in Iraq. Mother Olga Yaqob delivered one of the most defining and powerful statements about the current situation taking place in the Middle East that I ever heard.

When Mother Olga called me this week seeking advice about how to discuss the situation in Iraq, I strongly urged her that the word "genocide" should be used in your statement in order to capture world attention about the brutality and crimes against humanity which are taking place today. Genocide imposes a legal obligation on the part of the international community, including the United States, to take immediate action, military if necessary. The atrocities in the Middle East have been going on for years, but they have accelerated in recent months by violent extremist Islamists, who are committed to the extermination of Christianity in the region as well as the destruction of Israel and its ally the United States. These radical jihadists terrorists, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), are also committed to a one world religion, radical Islam. As I told Mother Olga. I witnessed genocide first hand in Rwanda and in Bosnia while conducting humanitarian missions throughout the world. But it was because of the strong political and moral leadership of Pope and Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton, that international troops finally stepped in with force to end the massive killings, rapes and torture of innocent children, women and men.

In a recent letter I sent to President Obama, Secretary Kerry, Senators Markey and Warren, I expressed my outrage about this moral and political crisis and said immediate military action to eradicate the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS ) is required. I also included strong statements by Pope Francis, the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, Cardinal O'Malley and Mother Olga.

It is tragic in this new era of "political apathy and disengagement" about government in the United States that the voice and will of the public is no longer important. Public opinion has been replaced by special interest groups, money and the media. Politicians know that much of the public gets its information from 30 second TV sound bites, newspaper headlines and political photo opportunities. That's why the courageous citizen voices, like Mother Olga and others are so important today. They could become the new political and moral conscience in the U.S. today.

Mother Olga moved the audience Friday night in that North End Church and left them with a determination to help them do something about the present crisis in Iraq. But what do you do when the politicians aren't listening? When it's no longer important to their political interests? When even Christians in America are apathetic? But priests in Boston and throughout the United States are speaking out passionately about the persecution of Christians in Iraq and from what I could see, people are responding very movingly.

Before Mother delivered her moving message, she gave my special needs grandson Braeden her Rosary Beads which she brought to America from Iraq. I can only imagine all the suffering people whose concerns that she has prayed for with those Beads. During the Mass, Braeden quietly sat holding them and kissing the crucified Christ on the cross. He has seen many faithful Catholics do that in his eight short years in life. Later, when he met Cardinal O'Malley, he showed him the Rosary Beads that Mother had given him. The Cardinal smiled and said, "Yes, Braeden the world needs prayer now more than ever." By the way, whenever he sees the Cardinal he screams out, "Me." Meaning of course, we know each other. We're friends."

In the shadow of Paul Revere's home, this simple immigrant nun in her comments just might have started something important in America. Asking God's help yes, but also the involvement of concerned American's to save other fellow humans who can't help themselves. No powerful politicians in attendance to hear her comments. No TV cameras. Just a church filled group of Americans concerned about people they don't know and a country they know very little about.

And yes, there was Braeden holding the not so new Rosary Beads that Mother Olga had given him.


- Raymond L. Flynn is the former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and Mayor of Boston.