The many faces of Hope from Iraq

The many faces of Hope from Iraq

On this Assembly day Sr. Yosé Höhne-Sparborth took us to the war zone of Iraq and analysed the role of Europe in the Middle East. And against this background she asked the question: ‘Preachers of hope: when, where, who and to whom?’ After Mass at the sanctuary of Fatima the Assembly elections were held for the new Council.

As usual the day started in the chapel with morning prayer and afterwards breakfast. Now we’re getting used to the rhythm and the place, the Assembly is already nearly at an end. After breakfast Sr. Yosé Höhne-Sparborth talked about the pastoral importance of hope, with input from her time in Iraq:

‘In Europe a public manner of speaking has been built up that very easily just moves between ‘good and bad’. It is a simplification of realities. About the fact we can ask various questions: whose interest is served by that kind of simplification of reality; or, who is directing these simplifications? But also we could speak about the effects of simplifications in general on people like us. My experiences in the ’80s in Eastern Europe, form 1996 till 2016 in Latin America, and since 2002 in or with Iraq, made me watch, ask, and every time look for even more complexity behind realities than what we hear in mainstream information.

‘In Archbishop Yousif Thomas Mirkis OP from Kirkuk I observed a person, always able to give hope to people, and to adapt the formulation of hope, the practice of hope in constantly changing situations. And his theological expressions change every time too. Yet I can’t call his theology “casual theology”, because he is too Dominican. He is very fundamental, but looking every time for fresh words and visions in every new situation. I could say, he is a theologian of eschatology, a theologian of the future. I suppose he sees himself in that way too. At least I know that his main question to Muslims is: why are they living just on the basis of the past? Because it feeds fundamentalism. Mirkis is friendly to liberation theology, but not only that.

‘What makes him a prophet of hope is his praxis. In every new situation he sees who are the people who give hope. And he looks for a creative and decisive way to fulfil that hope. But, in the last few years, I understood one more thing. He still works based on a society concept that is disappearing, even in the Middle East. For about 100 years, greatly accelerated since 1989, neoliberalism has become dominant in our world. This resulted in changing our own position in society: we in our society have been changed from producers to consumers. Proclaiming individualism and independence, we all became extremely dependent: the whole production of our living facilities has been taken away from us, we just have to consume. In such a world the same few people that decide about production, decide about hope and for whom, and at what price.

‘Mirkis initiates all kinds of ways to make people in desperate situations the producers of their own hope, able to “own” the situation. In Iraq I can see what exactly gives hope despite everything. We in the western world are just consumers, and consumers feel powerless in front of difficulties. Consumers are waiting for others to give them hope, for others to organize their hope – hope as a product, the result of a production process. Confronted with desperate situations we just feel paralyzed. Mirkis’ praxis is to look for conditions in which the people can work for their own future, their own hope. The result of that is, too, that they are not so easy to manipulate emotionally, but indeed they can understand how their own emotional and practical contribution is a way of hope for future.’

After the talk the Assembly was again divided in groups just like yesterday and talked about the discussion questions. It was an interesting morning with a lot to think about. Here are the links to the video Sr. Yosé used:

     Help for refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan:

     Bishop Mirkis about peace:

     Bishop Mirkis about cooperation:

     Bishop Mirkis about the students:

     Bishop Mirkis about living together:

     Bishop Mirkis about hope:

And at last: Ali and Alaa’, two students from bishop Morkis, a Christian and a Muslim, back in Mosul op de Iraqi state television:






Today – on the Feast of The Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rosary – Mass was in the sanctuary and Rui presided. Celebrating the Eucharist with so many people at this place, on this, for the Order, important day, was very special. And it didn’t bother us that it was 38° C.

In the afternoon it was time for the elections to choose a new Council for the ECLDF and a representative for the ICLDF. The procedure went through carefully and, grateful for having a new good Council, the Assembly ended the day by praying the Rosary and Vespers.

After dinner there was a nice social meeting with the Laity of Portugal, where the Dominican Volunteers as well as the European representatives of the International Dominican Youth Movement – and delegates to the Assembly – told us something about their work and inspiration.


(09 October 2017)