The Christian Church in Iraq may be forced underground after the death of the kidnapped Archbishop Paul Rahho. Dr Suha Rassam, the spokeswoman for Iraqi Christians in Need, said: “The only way for the Church in the Mosul area to survive might be if it goes underground, like it did in the 1st and 2nd centuries. This way, Mass and other services would be held in secret and priests go about their duties clandestinely.”
There were nearly a million Christians in Iraq before the war and about half of them have left the country. Dozens of Christian churches have been attacked, bombed or destroyed and some Christian children have reportedly been crucified by Islamic terrorists. The Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was recently kidnapped and murdered. Some Christians left in Iraq don’t go to church for fear of being targeted for death. Some priests don’t wear clerical garb for the same reason.
“The church is much better today than before the attack,” the archbishop said about it. “That violence tested our faith, and in a year we have learned to put into practice values like forgiveness and love, even for those who persecute us.”
- His flock got the archbishop’s message.
“Mosul Christians are not theologians; some are even illiterate. And yet, inside of us for many generations, one truth has become embedded: Without the Sunday Eucharist we cannot live,” said Father Ganni. “The terrorists might think they can kill our bodies or our spirit by frightening us, but, on Sundays, churches are always full. They may try to take our life, but the Eucharist gives it back.”
“There are days when I feel frail and full of fear,” said the priest. “But when, holding the Eucharist, I say ‘Behold the Lamb of God, behold, who takes away the sin of the world,’ I feel his strength in me. When I hold the Host in my hands, it is really he who is holding me and all of us, challenging the terrorists and keeping us united in his boundless love.”
Father Ganni was shot dead in Mosul last year.
Now, the bishop he served has joined him.
Religions tend to be cliquish--even though most don't intend to be so. And so at the outset, I want to assure you that I don't think a Christian's life is worth more than a Muslims (for instance), but as bad as Sunni / Shi'a relations get, it's still probably worse to be a Christian in Iraq.
Sometimes we pampered Americans can't grasp the implications that come of belonging to a religion born in blood. And not just born in blood--Christianity of all stripes is not lacking in martyrs. And it's my belief that God accepts that holy and faithful sacrifice no matter what rites the soul in question practiced before ending in blood and violence.
But no matter how we add up our own real or imagined sacrifices of blood, we all must yet fall short. Which is why Easter is worth celebrating. Why we remember the Christ at all.
Just a thought.