Written by Sherry
Friday, 26 December 2008 18:35
Ah, the luxury of reading the dead tree version of the New York Times while sipping a grande decaf non-fat Latte with sugar-free Hazelnut. Must be the second day of Christmas!
Anyway, I was struck by a poignant story from Iraq about the Christians of Mosul - and the impact that one brave young Chaldean priest and a few fearless sisters have had on the community. God bless and protect them!
"But many of the Christians who have returned said they did so because they were inspired by the determination and faith of one priest and a handful of nuns to remain in the city against the odds.
At St. Paul’s, Mikhail Ibrahim said the only reason he returned to Mosul after fleeing for a few weeks with his family was because of his faith in the Rev. Basman George Fatouhi, the Chaldean Church’s de facto leader in Mosul.
“He was the only one who stayed and took care of the community,” Mr. Ibrahim said. “He told us to come back and we did.”
Father Fatouhi, a charismatic 27-year-old priest, was thrust into the effective leadership of the Chaldean Church in Mosul after the kidnapping and death this year of its leader, Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho. Archbishop Rahho’s closest aide, another senior figure in the church, was killed in 2007.
Father Fatouhi had negotiated with the archbishop’s kidnappers, who abducted the archbishop after a church service and killed three of his companions.
Their demands went from $300,000 to $20,000, but after the lesser sum was paid the negotiators were told that the archbishop had died in captivity because he did not have his diabetes medication.
Father Fatouhi and another church member dug his body out of a shallow grave and took it to the morgue.
Since the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Christians have been hit hard, particularly in parts of Baghdad and Mosul. Numerous churches and the Chaldean archdiocese building in Mosul were bombed, and many priests and parishioners were killed or kidnapped for ransom."
"Amid the violence, the few remaining church leaders like Father Fatouhi and Sister Autour Yousif, who also belongs to the Chaldean Church, are working against the tide to keep their faith alive.
During the depths of the crisis in October, they were not only providing moral and spiritual support, but often venturing out at great risk to buy food and provisions for families who were too scared to even go to the market. They have also been determined to maintain church services in some of the most dangerous parts of the city.
On numerous occasions the pair have found themselves carrying out the grim task of collecting the bodies of Christians from the morgue because their families were too afraid to do it.
Sister Yousif is among three nuns at a convent next to the Miskinta church who have refused to leave Mosul. They care for 27 orphan girls and reach out to Muslims and Christians alike.
“We are like the rest of the people,” she said. “We will remain until they all leave. The poor need us.”
In his homily on Thursday, Father Fatouhi compared Jesus to a flame that continued to “warm the hearts” of the faithful during difficult and trying times."
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