We must never forget our Catholic brothers and sisters who are under attack in Iraq.
To get to Mass at Our Lady of Salvation Church on Sunday, worshipers had to pass through a blockade of police trucks, past armed sentries on the rooftop, and through a security checkpoint where they were frisked for weapons and explosives. Some came in mourning black, many in tears, most in a spirit of quiet defiance.
“This gives us more strength,” said Sama Wadie, 32, a teacher, his hand wrapped in a bandage. “We’re not afraid of death because Jesus died for us. Of course we cry, but they’re tears of happiness, because we die for God.”
One week ago Our Lady of Salvation, a Syrian Catholic church, was the scene of the worst attack on Iraqi Christians since the American-led invasion in 2003. Gunmen in explosive suicide vests jumped the church’s security wall and took more than 100 worshipers hostage, identifying themselves as members of the Islamic State of Iraq, a Qaeda-linked terrorist group. It began a night of bloodshed in which 51 worshipers and two priests were killed. The terrorist group promised more attacks, declaring Christians everywhere “legitimate targets.” [New York Times]
Amidst the bloodshed between Sunni and Shiite Moslems in Iraq, and between Moslems and Jews in the Middle East, Christians are always caught in the middle. Pope Benedict said about the attack last week:
“I pray for the victims of this absurd violence, even more ferocious in that it has been inflicted upon defenseless people gathered in God’s house, which is a house of love and reconciliation. I express my affectionate closeness to the Christian community, now stricken again, and I encourage its pastors and faithful alike to be strong and firm in hope.”
Robert Moynihan of Inside the Vatican Magazine writes: “The Christians of the Middle East remain exposed to violence driving them from the region, and no one seems willing, or able, to protect them.” He also notes that the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq has dwindled from 1.5 million souls to less than 500,000 in the past 7 years.
I echo him in asking, “where is the outrage?!” I echo him in calling for prayers for the Christians in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, and especially for these modern day Catholic martyrs.
UPDATE: See also on this topic Pat Buchanan, “The Murderers of Christianity”
Photo: Shiho Fukada for The New York Times.