SIR – I concur with John Pontifex’s views in his accurate but disturbing article “Caught in the middle” (Cover story, January 17). Being of Iraqi origin myself, I try to keep up with news concerning our remaining ancient Christians of Iraq. They are in a very precarious position indeed.
The Shia rulers of Iraq are definitely under the influence of Iran’s religious rulers, and Iraq’s forces are no match for the more powerful Iranian/Shabak militias that are giving the Christians of the Nineveh Plains such a hard time. But bear in mind that Sunni extremists such as ISIS are even worse.
The excuse that Iraqi Christians are pro-West and hence traitors to their country is ludicrous. Predating Muslims there by hundreds of years, they have always been loyal to their country. For example, they were completely against the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. As things stand, however, they may well decide to leave before they are wiped out by their increasingly hostile neighbours.
Unfortunately, the “international community” does not seem either to notice or care. This is despite many studies showing that anti-Christian persecution in Muslim-majority countries has reached unprecedented levels. Even if the constitutions of these countries give lip service to minority rights, their laws are generally based on Sharia law and are hence inimical to Christians in particular. I am afraid alarm bells are ringing not just for the Christians of Iraq and the Middle East but even beyond.
Joe Seferta Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
When the Church of England does it better
SIR – Andrew M Brown is right to raise the subject of Confirmation (Charterhouse, January 17).
This sacrament is one of the areas where Anglicans seem to do things a little bit better than we do – the others being cathedral choirs and parochial church councils (minus the parish bullies).
The Church of England tends to confirm at a slightly older age. Allied to this, candidates have residential retreats, not always in a religious setting – I remember one on a private country estate. Plus there are further opportunities for commitment. Naturally, the grace of this powerful sacrament acts independently of the disposition, or age, of the person receiving it, being as it is for life (unlike, for example, Reconciliation).
I wonder how many baptised and confirmed Catholic prisoners there are serving sentences for violent and serious crimes (Northern Ireland apart), where the combined grace of the sacraments may have held their hands back from far more evil deeds. I suspect very few.
Of course this sort of thinking might upset certain social science lecturers and media pundits.
Bernard Cartwright Stourbridge, West Midlands
SIR – I was relieved to see Melissa Kite’s comments about the Pope’s slapping incident (Diary, January 10). What came to her mind was the example of Jesus being touched in a crowd. What came to my mind was the Pope recovering himself and giving the woman a blessing.
Several years ago my husband and I were in the crowd at a Wednesday audience with the Pope, held in St Peter’s Square. We stood for an unconscionable amount of time in the hot sun while the Pope perambulated among the crowd, glad-handing those who could reach him. I have struggled to understand that his culture and his personality are different from mine, but it hasn’t been easy, and the slapping incident made it even harder.
Elaine Olden Littleton, Massachusetts, United States
A beautiful title
SIR – I wish to support CC Pecknold in his views on Planned Parenthood (Comment, January 17). My regret is that Catholics did not own that beautiful title before the current users. If you link Catholic aspects like “marry as virgins, marry for love and marry until death separates you”, and if you add 2020 human fertility cycle awareness to our boys and girls’ upbringing, the conditions are there for a perfect planned parenthood.
Yes, of course this is a grossly optimistic approach, but we do have a leader who rose from the dead, and who offers limitless and merciful love.
Marie Arnall Windermere, Cumbria
SIR – Marianna, Viscountess Monckton of Brenchley, put her finger on it (Letter, January 17). If Catholic primary school children are no longer given a personal copy of the Catechism, why on earth not?
Across my decades I recall (long live the Faithful Companions of Jesus nuns and their rote learning!) several early questions and answers, though when I read her “Why did God make you?” my autopilot answer trips out: “God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him for ever in the next.” A slight variation from her answer.
I feel guilty that I have little knowledge of all those more complicated questions towards the end of the booklet. Must buy one if I can find one on the rack at the back of the church …
John D Rogers Nantymoel, Bridgend
SIR – I think President Trump was entirely right in ordering the killing of Iran’s chief terrorist (US news analysis, January 24). Here was a man who would organise an explosion in a crowded marketplace, killing 50 women and children, doubtless shouting “God is great!” afterwards.
There has to be a violent reaction against these psychopathic bombers. Do nothing and they will only become bolder. To know that death may suddenly come out of the sky will surely act as a deterrent to others of their kind. Diplomacy just does not work with fanatics.
Shortly before World War II, Neville Chamberlain tried to talk peace with Hitler and came back smiling with a piece of paper, declaring “Peace in our time.” Then the Nazis brutally invaded Poland and we had to declare war on them and kill many thousands of Germans. Only after six years of intense suffering was peace finally established and the Nazis firmly put down.
Let the pacifists and politically correct squawk as much as they like. This is what real life is like.
Jim Allen Torquay, Devon
SIR – I hope that Terrence Malick’s new film about Franz Jägerstätter (Feature, January 17) will inspire other directors to explore the stories of other Catholic heroes of World War II.
Those who deserve the full-length Hollywood feature treatment are: Blessed Marcel Callo, the young Frenchman seized by the Gestapo in 1944; Blessed Titus Brandsma, the Dutch Carmelite who died at Dachau; Blessed Maria Restituta Kafka, the nurse executed in Nazi-controlled Austria; and Blessed Teresio Olivelli, a member of the Italian Resistance.
Jeff Brotherton Stoughton, Massachusetts, United States