Lent Week 6: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness
Last week we told you about The Barbers of Baghdad. This week, we are remembering the Martyrs of Baghdad. On the evening of 31st October 2010, seven men with machine guns pulled up outside the ‘Our Lady of Deliverance Church’ in Baghdad. The men, described as “youths”, herded the congregation into the centre of the church. They turned off the lights and began shooting. At the end of the attack 58 people lay dead – including two priests. Since their martyrdom, some Christians in Baghdad have called for the priests to be recognised as Saints.
The Violence in Baghdad continues
During a recent trip to Iraq, I spoke with Fr. Salar Boudagh who knew one of the priests (left in photo above). They were best friends. Fr. Salar ministers in the Nineveh Plain (in the north of Iraq) and is coordinating the rebuilding of five Chaldean Catholic villages there. He is truly serving on the front line. We met at St George’s Church, which will be familiar to those of you who follow our work. A few years ago, St George’s was bombed by terrorists, though thankfully no-one was killed. Sadly, Christians in the capital are still being targeted. Just last week, three Christians were stabbed to death in their home. Two of them were doctors.
Stories from the persecuted
I have spoken with Iraqi Christian refugees in Baghdad and Jordan. They are a dwindling and persecuted minority, besieged by extremists who want to drive Christianity from the region. Everyone has a story to tell of the terror faced by Christians in Iraq. There is Mariam, whose grandfather was murdered by Al Qaeda. There is Enaam, whose Christian neighbours disappeared or were murdered in their homes by ISIS. Listening to their tragic stories brings to mind the words of Christ: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Why we must remember
Perhaps the least-reported atrocity in the world is the persecution of Christians. The mainstream media seldom covers it. That is why it is so important that we remember those who suffer for their Christian faith. We must also remember those non-Christians – Sunnis, Shia, Yazidis and others – who are also caught in the crossfire of Iraq’s ongoing sectarian war.
Mike Simpson, CEO
Thursday 22nd March 2018
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