His wrath upon their headsFATHER RAYMOND J. DE SOUZA
The blood of Baghdad screams out to heaven and earth.
May we now speak of the Muslims who want to kill us?
Isn't that way out of line? Surely Islam is a religion of peace, from which we have a lot to learn?
Let's then dispense with the disclaimers: Christians and Muslims have often lived together in peace. Only a minority of Muslims are homicidal fanatics. Terrorism is a corruption of Islam. Fine.
But let us speak frankly of those Islamic jihadists who wish to kill Christians because they are not Muslims. On Oct. 31 in Baghdad, an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group stormed into the cathedral of the Syriac Catholic Church, Our Lady of Salvation, during the evening Mass. They immediately killed the priest offering the Holy Mass – three priests in all were murdered. They began shooting and held the congregation hostage while security forces surrounded the church. When the police stormed the church, the jihadists began killing those inside; some of them set off suicide bombs on their belts. Dozens of Catholics were killed.
The blood of Abel, the first innocent to be killed, cried out to heaven. The blood of these latest Iraqi martyrs screams out to heaven and Earth. Does the world want to listen?
"Christians are slaughtered in Iraq, in their homes and churches, and the so-called 'free' world is watching in complete indifference, interested only in responding in a way that is politically correct and economically opportune, but in reality is hypocritical," said Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan after these latest killings.
"There are a few churches and Christian institutions left in Baghdad, not so great a number that it is not unreasonable for them to be protected, security-wise," he continued, noting that the security being provided by the government is "far less than what we have hoped for and requested."
By now the killing of Christians by jihadists has become a regular feature of the landscape in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. Yet a massacre in a church, during the Holy Mass, surely would provoke a thunderous reaction?
"We condemn in the strongest terms those who would conduct such a cowardly, vicious and senseless attack on innocent civilians in a place of worship," said the boilerplate statement from Lawrence Cannon, Canada's foreign minister. No mention of who "those" attackers might be. The Rotary Club? Salvation Army?
The American State Department had no statement at all.
In the Church too, there is often a reluctance to support vigourously Christians under attack, and to call things by name.
"As in the past and still existent today, some imbalances are present in our relations," is how the final statement of the recent Synod of Bishops on the Middle East characterized Christian-Muslim relations. Imbalances? As in the imbalance between the jihadist firing the gun and the Catholic mother being riddled with bullets?
Then there was the statement by Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, which was utterly astonishing. After simply describing the massacre, he boldly pointed the finger of blame:
The blood is still dripping from the walls of the Baghdad cathedral, and Bishop Farrell finds fault with a nutcase nobody pastor who threatened to burn the Koran, but did not do so after the whole world condemned him. Would that the Islamic radicals in Baghdad had only threatened to kill people at Mass. With all respect to the bishop of Dallas, the problem is not with overheated Catholic rhetoric, but with murderous Muslims. A Catholic bishop ought to know the difference. Indeed, a bishop might consider more muscular rhetoric, perhaps giving voice to the blood of Baghdad that screams out to heaven.
"Vengeance is mine says the Lord." So Scripture teaches us, and so it must be for us, leaving vengeance to the Lord, and imploring the grace of reconciliation and mercy. But let us not blanch from raising our voices to the Lord, with righteous anger and hot tears, to visit His vengeance upon those who did this, to bring down His wrath upon their heads, to exact upon them a terrifying price in full measure for their grievous sins.
That's not the language of hatred; it is the language of the shepherd when the flock is being slaughtered.
Father Raymond J. de Souza, "Enough already! Letís call a jihadist a jihadist." Catholic Register, (Canada) November 3, 2010.
Reprinted with permission of Fr. de Souza.
Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.
Copyright © 2010 Father Raymond J. de Souza
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