Echoes From Crucified Iraq

Voices of Hope, Voice of Faith, Voices of Love

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By Robert Cheaib
ROME, NOV. 15, 2010 ( When it’s a question of children dying in the name of an ideology that believes it is doing God’s will by killing babies, pregnant women, priests and elderly people, a Christian journalist cannot be professional if he does not express his indignation. He also cannot be merely the indifferent echo of events, but rather the voice that makes the difference; to be the voice of those who no longer have a voice because their cry has been suffocated by violence and drowned by tears.
Many people would like to help the persecuted Christians in Iraq, but often they do not have the means, or they simply don’t know what to do. Undoubtedly, prayer is essential, but true prayer is crowned with action. Because of this, ZENIT’s Arabic edition has decided to give a voice to those who are living the tragedy in Iraq, so that the world can hear not so much their cries of despair, but rather their proposals of hope for a possible resurrection of the crucified Christians in their country.
For reasons of privacy and security, including that of their families in Iraq, we are not using their names, but only their initials.
Role of the media
Iraqi priest A.N., friend and fellow student of the martyred Fathers Thaer and Wassim, writes: “As a Christian and an Iraqi I ask all to commit themselves to letting the voice of Iraqi Christians heard throughout the world using the authority of the media, because our own means are limited and poor, and we are in great need of a strong and multilingual means to make our voice and cry reach international governmental authorities.”
Moreover, the priest explained that what is known about the sufferings of Christians in Iraq is only a drop in the ocean. Their dramas are certainly not limited to the tragedy of Our Lady Of Deliverance Church. That is why he invited the media to make known “all the violent murders, massacres, persecutions and kidnappings to which Christians are exposed daily.” And he stressed that this endeavor is “a necessary testimony to truth, which alone is able to save the world.”
Iraqis in diaspora
Another letter we received was from Lebanese Father A.F., who has been working for several years helping Iraqi refugees, both Muslims and Christians, in Mount Lebanon. The priest requested that attention be paid not only to Christians present in Iraq, but also to the great number of Iraqi Muslims and Christians forgotten for many years in small nations such as Lebanon.
They are forgotten because they do not make news or provide scoop, but in reality “they are several thousands, in need of both material and moral support.” Thousands of Iraqis have been received in neighboring countries, and in the case of Lebanon, there are serious economic difficulties to carry out this assumed commitment with gratitude and generosity, explained Father A.
Hence, he launches an appeal to important humanitarian organizations to help the churches, convents and small Lebanese communities, which for years have been helping Iraqi refugees.
Create a future
Doctor W.W., Iraqi humanitarian activist, who in the last attack lost seven friends, described the situation thus: “Christians in Iraq are divided between those who wish to resist and stay and those who are afraid and want to leave because the situation has truly and gravely escalated.”
And she added: “I know that the Church doesn’t want people to emigrate, but the situation now is far graver than preserving the Christian tradition and civilization so rooted in this land. […] At stake are the lives of persons and I cannot imagine that the Church, which is Mother and Teacher, prefers stones to persons.”

Hence she invites all Christians worldwide, especially in the West, to take concrete steps to create a future for Iraq’s Christians, helping them to transfer to other countries: “Knowing that it is utopian to ask every family of Europe to adopt an Iraqi family, I suggest something more practical: that each parish adopt a Christian family of Iraq, to enable it to begin again with a fitting life.”
New diffusion of faith
Finally, Monk P.M. appealed to international communities and to important Christian communities to exact from Islamic nations and Muslims an open and clear denunciation of the barbarous acts and not to remain as passive spectators in face of the massacre, “because if they really reject it, they should denounce it openly.”
And, together with these concrete steps, he invites us to raise our gaze to Christian hope and remember that this is how the Church began: “After Pentecost, persecution began, and as a result of persecution, the Church spread.”
In this context, he reminded that the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which was held last month in the Vatican, has been compared to a “new Pentecost,” and added that, precisely after this new Pentecost, the same old scene is being repeated: the arrival of persecution.
“Rejoice,” Monk P.M. continued, “dear martyrs, because the Lord has heard the cry of your blood, which will be the foundation of new Churches and the seed of new Christians.”
He then quoted a very timely passage of St. Ignatius of Antioch, who wrote: “‘Pray for other men ‘without interruption.’ In them there is hope of conversion so that they will encounter God. Let them learn from your deeds. In the face of their anger be meek, in the face of their megalomania be humble, counter their blasphemies with your prayers; in the face of their error ‘remain firm in the faith’; in the face of their ferocity be peaceful, do not try to imitate them. In kindness let us feel ourselves their brothers, trying to be imitators of the Lord. Who more than him has suffered from injustice? Who has had more privations than him?”
“All we can do,” the monk concluded, “is to show the world that love is stronger than the sword.”

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Robert Cheaib is editor of ZENIT’s Arabic edition.

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