Mary Segman’s sister is one of the tens of thousands of Christians in Iraq forced by Islamic State militants to flee for her life, convert to Islam or die. “They took their house, a beautiful house. They put the letter N, that we are Christian in Arabic (on her door),” Segman told the Catholic New World following an Aug. 29 ecumenical prayer service at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, 1300 N. Noble, to pray for peace in Iraq. Segman, who lives in Oak Lawn and is a member of Mart Mariam Chaldean Catholic Church in Northbrook, said her sister and her two adult sons are living on the street in Mosul and do not have food. “My sister, she tried to leave and they stopped her at the border. They say, ‘All of you convert to Islam or you get killed.’ We are Christian so we don’t want to convert to Muslims,” Segman said. During the day her sister and her sons move to areas with shade and at night sometimes find refuge in a church. Having spoken to her sister in Iraq the morning of the prayer service, Segman said, “Today she cried. She said, ‘If you come to see us we are in the park, in the street, in the church. We don’t have a place to live.’” Segman raised $2,000 through her family and sent it to her sister. “It’s very sad,” she said. Segman said she attended the service at St. Stanislaus in part to seek help for her sister and her family. Segman knew that the Latin-rite Catholics were collecting donations to Catholic Relief Services to directly aid those trapped in Iraq. About 100 people attended the evening prayer service for peace in Iraq organized by the archdiocese’s Office for Peace and Justice. Members from two Christian denominations delivered reflections along with Father Fawaz Kako, pastor of Mart Mariam Church. Mass with Chaldean Catholics The prayer service was one of several recent efforts in the local Catholic community to support Christians persecuted in Iraq. On Aug. 24, Auxiliary Bishop Francis Kane, the archdiocese’s vicar general, celebrated Mass at Mart Mariam Church. Mass was celebrated in both English and Aramaic. The Chaldean Catholic Church is in communion with the Latin-rite Catholic Church. That same morning, in another show of solidarity, Father Thomas Baima, the archdiocese’s vicar for ecumenical and interreligious affairs, attended morning prayer and Mass at St. Andrew Assyrian Church in Glenview. The archdiocese also held a special collection Sept. 6-7 in parishes to help Iraqis through Catholic Relief Services. During his homily at Mart Mariam, Bishop Kane said he came to express the sympathy of the Catholic community in Chicago for the Chaldean Catholic community in the Middle East, especially northern Iraq. “I come to assure you, that your brothers and sisters in the Roman rite stand in solidarity with you in these troubled times,” Bishop Kane said. He spoke of how the church shows us, in the example of Peter, that many times we are persecuted for our faith in Christ. “They may drive you from your homes and threaten your lives. They may destroy our church buildings and turn our people into refugees. But do not allow them to take away your faith. Be like Peter. Be the church,” he said. We must have the faith to proclaim Christ to the world no matter if we have to pay the ultimate price, the bishop said. Cardinal’s prayers Following the homily, Kako read a letter to the congregation from Cardinal George. “Like our Holy Father, Pope Francis, I am shocked and deeply grieved by the persecution and expulsion of so many Christians from Iraq, and I am horrified by the brutal martyrdom that so many people, some of whom you know personally as relatives, friends and neighbors,suffered at the hands of terrorists,” he wrote. The cardinal said he’s been praying for Iraqi Christians every day and that martyrdom is not a thing of the past. “The suffering of Chaldean Catholics in Iraq confronts us with the reality of martyrdom today and with the urgent necessity of being prepared to suffer in order to preserve our freedom to follow the Lord as his disciples.” In an interview following the Aug. 24 Mass, Kako said knowing that the Latin-rite Catholic community is praying for the Chaldean Church is important. “We believe that prayers can change the face of the earth,” said Kako, who is a native of Baghdad and attended Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park. Sometimes as Iraqi Catholics in the United States the congregation watches what is going on in their homeland and think, “It could have been us,” said Kako, who has a sister in Iraq. “A lot of people have families who are trapped there and don’t know what to do for them. Half of the family is here and the rest is there.” The local Chaldean Church is praying, sending funds to dioceses in Iraq and writing letters to embassies in the United States begging for intervention. “We’ve been requesting that we need to get our people out of there. Being different in Iraq right now it’s not such a good thing. Being a believer in Christ that’s not such a good thing,” Kako said. For many Iraqi Christians living here, America is the “promised land” where they can prosper, pray and share their faith, Kako said. “Can you imagine this congregation could have been in Iraq and we could not have this freedom that we have today, praying and being one in Christ,” he said. Even though Iraqi Christians have a strong tie to the land of Abraham, if the land doesn’t want them they can leave and proclaim Christ wherever they go, he said. “What can stop us from loving Christ? Persecution, killing, death, sword, suffering, you know? Nothing can stop us,” he said. “These people really carry the crucified Christ on their bodies.” Catholic Relief Services is collecting donations to help Christians in Iraq. Visit www.crs.org for more information.