After The Massacre, The “Dilemma”

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Fr. Vincent, who has lived in Iraq for 40 years and teaches at Babel College in Baghdad, the college affiliated with the Pontifical Urban University, has issued a heartfelt testimony: “We are living something that is really terrible. There had never been a massacre of such magnitude, all within a church during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. I have visited the church and listened to the testimonies of the faithful in shock. The terrorists mercilessly killed women and children. The community is traumatized. The church looked like a cemetery.”During the massacre, the Christian community in Baghdad has lost two young Syro-Catholic priests, Fr. Wasim Sabieh and Fr. Thaier Saad Abdal (gravely wounded, a third priest, Chorepiscop Fr. Rufail Quataimi, died later in the hospital). “What a tragedy! The two priests, not yet in their thirties, were my students at the Babel College. They were very active in Bible apostolate, in interfaith dialogue, and charity. Fr. Thaier was in charge of a Center for Islamic Studies, and Fr. Wasin was very involved in helping poor families. We will miss them,” says Fr. Vincent.

The Redemptorist recalls that days later “a number of attacks hit Baghdad and Shiite areas, which means that not only Christians are under attack, but the whole area is flooded by terrorism. It is hard to see a hopeful future for the nation right now,” he says. “We do not know who is behind these acts, nor where the nation is headed. Meanwhile, the people suffer. There are such great evils that beset the country.”

Hence, the dilemma for Christians: “The faithful say their life has become impossible. Many Christian families are organizing themselves to leave the country. The excruciating dilemma is whether to flee in search of a better future, or stay, risking their lives. In this tragic moment, the bishops have a great responsibility to speak to the faithful, to give them reasons and hopes, to convince them to stay. The task of our pastors, today, is very difficult,” he remarked. The funeral of the victims “was attended by many Muslim leaders who asked the government to defend Christians. We hope that, after yet another massacre, civil authorities listen to the cry of Christians in Iraq and place an end to their suffering.” 

On the occasion of the funeral, celebrated on November 2, the Holy Father Benedict XVI sent the following message to Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka, Archbishop of Baghdad for the Syro-Catholics: “Deeply moved by the violent death of so many faithful and their priests Tha’ir Saad and Boutros Wasim, I wish, during the sacred funeral rite, to share spiritually on this occasion and pray that these our brothers and sisters are welcomed by the mercy of Christ into the Father’s House. For years, this country has been suffering untold hardships and even Christians have become the subject of brutal attacks that, in total disregard of life – an inviolable gift from God – seek to undermine confidence and peace. I renew my call that the sacrifice of our brothers and sisters may be the seed of peace and true rebirth, and that those who care about reconciliation, solidarity and fraternal coexistence, find the strength and motivation to do good.” 

 

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