Anniversary of Massacre in Iraq and the Future of Christianity
Three-year-old Christian child, Adam Udai, was martyred on October 31, 2010
As we recall the massacre at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Deliverance in Iraq's capital city of Baghdad, her martyrs and the chilling fallout from the so-called Arab Spring, we are reminded of our obligation to our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Given our involvement in this region, it would be unconscionable for our leaders to ignore their plight any longer.
KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - One year ago on October 31, 2010, during the Sunday evening Mass, Islamic terrorists linked to al-Qaeda scaled the perimeter wall to the Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Deliverance in Iraq's capital city of Baghdad. Close to 60 people were killed, and approximately 100 more were wounded. Among the dead were children, a pregnant woman and two priests.
According to a Catholic News Agency (CNA) article, Father Sa'adallah had just started his homily when the terrorists entered the church. He reportedly "took the Gospel in hand and held it up, saying, 'In the name of the Gospel, leave them and take me. Me for them!'" Their response was quick. After killing Father Sa'adallah, they turned on the other parishioners, especially the young men.
A second priest, Father Sabb'ieh, was hearing confessions when the attack began. He immediately hid two families and then, unwilling to leave the remaining parishioners alone, he confronted the terrorists. Heading straight at them, he shouted, "What do you want from us?" They shot him in the head. Then a bomb exploded near him.
That was only the beginning of the bloodbath which ensued. Although each story must be told, there are too many to tell in this article. However, one stands out most for me. It is about a little boy who confronted the terrorists, three-year-old Adam Udai. On that tragic day, "Adam witnessed the horror of dozens of deaths, including that of his own parents. He wandered among the corpses and the blood, following the terrorists around and admonishing them, 'enough, enough, enough.' According to witnesses, this continued for two hours until Adam was himself murdered."
All five terrorists who attacked the church died that day. Those who planned the attack were later apprehended. Father Shisha, another parish priest at Our Lady of Deliverance Church, spoke with them. He asked them why they did this. "Their response," he said, "was that you (Christians) are all 'kafara,' that is, 'infidels,' and we (Muslims) cannot coexist with you." The video above depicts their solution. It is extremely graphic.
Four more churches have been bombed in Iraq since that day now known as Black Sunday. One of the bombed churches was Holy Family Syro-Catholic Church in Kirkuk this past August. Only Father Akram was in the church at the time. However, the blast was so strong it damaged nearby homes injuring 22 other people besides Father. Two other Christian churches were also targeted, but security forces located and disabled the bombs before they exploded. The attacks were scheduled to coincide with the sentencing of four men for their role in masterminding the attack on Our Lady of Deliverance Church.
So it goes for Christians throughout the Middle East; the Arab Spring is turning out to be a bleak winter. As rulers in the Middle East region fall, the buffer they once provided between Islamic fundamentalists and minorities has vanished, and persecutions have intensified. The Coptic Christians of Egypt represent the largest religious minority in the region, and they are being murdered and their churches and homes are being burned to the ground.
Furthermore, there is a real concern that Islamic fundamentalists are grasping broader power, which would be disastrous for the ancient Christian communities indigenous to the region. The Muslim Brotherhood, who are calling for sharia law, is poised to gain power in Egypt, although we may be witnessing a power struggle between them and the military. The Islamic party, which had been banned in Tunisia, won the recent election.
Now, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the chairman of the National Transitional Council and interim leader of Libya, declared, "We are an Islamic state" based on sharia law. In addition, al-Qaeda now has a foothold in Libya, and thousands of surface-to-air missiles are missing from former Libyan ruler Muammar Guadaffi's weapons stockpile.
Perhaps one of the worst things that could happen would be for Iran to make inroads into Iraq when the United States pulls out of Iraq in December. This is one of the reasons Iraq was so important to the region; Iraq held Iran, with its radical brand of Islam, at bay. But a weakened Iraq without an American presence could be a sitting duck for their hungry, longstanding enemy. If Iran emerges more powerful, it would most likely be a death blow to Christianity in Iraq and possibly throughout the region. It would also be a grave threat to Israel.
In response to escalating violence against Christians in the Middle East, the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation made the following statements, which were published by the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN):
"The political and social unrest of the Arab Spring is unleashing forces that are having a devastating effect on the Middle East's Christian communities. . . . United with them in prayer and solidarity, we ask our fellow Christians living in the West to take time to develop a more realistic appreciation of their predicament. We ask our political leaders to exert more pressure where it can protect these Churches, many of which have survived centuries of hardship but now stand on the verge of disappearing completely."
Therefore, as we recall the massacre at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Deliverance and her martyrs and the chilling fallout from the so-called Arab Spring, we are reminded of our obligation to our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq and the Middle East. Moreover, given our heavy involvement in this region, it would be unconscionable for our leaders to ignore their plight any longer. This is especially true given our plans to pull out of Iraq at the end of this year.
Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.
© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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