We Are the Christians of Iraq
Letter of an Iraqi Priest to His Wounded Country
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By Father Albert Hisham Naoum
ROME, NOV. 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The martyrs of the Church of Our Lady of Salvation showed the world once again who we are, the Christians of Iraq, and they joined the martyrs of our Church, those who sacrificed their lives to Christ our Lord, who taught us to bear witness to the resurrection of life, for forgiveness, for hope, for love, for faith, joy.
The blood of our fallen heroes cries out to the world and all humanity, and urges the Christians of Iraq, wherever we are, to "preach" to the world about the suffering and risen Christ who lives in our wounded land.
Yes, I say "preach" because our faith is good news, as it "was and will always be." Who has ears to hear, hear us now, and know that Christ lives in the Christians of Iraq. It's a witness that lives and will continue to live. And if there is someone who does not feel the importance of witnessing in life, we would only say to him and to the whole world, that for us it is life itself. What the world calls "nothing," for us it is "everything"!
The Christians of Iraq are well aware that the risen Christ has conquered death, not because they are baptized believers, but rather because, with him, they have experienced death on the cross several times, and with him they drank the bitter cup, and have experienced the abandonment of others. And side by side with him they walked the way of his cross, and fell under the weight of their cross -- once in the attack on their churches, one with death, and yet another with the massacre of Our Lady of Salvation. Yet, they continue to stand up and live their faith as they have always done throughout history, walking along the path of suffering.
For Christians in Iraq, Oct. 31 was not the first time they have suffered, and no human being, especially those who claim to want peace, but really don't, can pretend that this will be the last time. But they do not interest us, because our hope has never been, and never will be, in them, but in the One who took up his cross and walked the path of death to ensure that life will continue and eventually win.
Joy and tragedy
Iraq's Christians have experienced deeply the meaning of life because they have experienced its joys after having tasted the bitterness of grief. They have lived in hope after experiencing the power of tragedy. They experienced laughter after having paid tears, and have experienced smiles after seeing their will broken by violence. These are really the Christians of Iraq with their good hearts, who love everyone, their country, and life, and these are those who forgive their enemies, and sow goodness wherever they are, spreading the spirit of peace. And despite their great suffering, they never forgot to live their Christian spirit in every place they went.
As an example of all this I can show you the Church of Our Lady of Salvation, which speaks on behalf of all Christians in Iraq, and which give examples written with the blood of its martyrs.
Have you heard how they died in this massacre, the two brave priests, and Wasim Sabieh and Thaier Saad Abdal? Did you know that they defended the faithful and tried to save their lives by offering their own from the first moment the criminals set foot in church? Did you know that a father protected his son by covering him completely with his own body while they were lying on the floor, and died in a hail of bullets so that the child would survive? Have you heard that the killers murdered a four-month-old baby girl and a young woman who, on the day of her death, had received the best news, namely that she was pregnant, and so went to church to thank God for this gift?
O people of the world, these are the Christians of Iraq. Hear and evangelize to everyone!
And you Christians of Iraq, when sadness fills your soul and you cannot imagine the future, look up there, to the God of Heaven and Earth, and remember well who you are and let the world know! Christ will not leave us alone, we are his "little flock," and he wants us to remain forever with him, to live our faith and our love for all as we have always done, because as he tells us, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples" (John 13: 35).
We witness with our lives, so that the world can see what is happening to us, so that those who have plugged their ears and those who have shut their mouths will speak about who we are. We are the Christians of Iraq!
[Translation from Arabic by ZENIT]
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Father Albert Hisham Naoum is an Iraqi Chaldean priest studying communications in Rome, and was a friend of Father Wasim Sabieh and Father Thaier Saad Abdal, the two priests who died in the Oct. 31 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Catholic Church.