Fr Bazi knows this viscerally; ISIS terrorists kidnapped him for nine days. He was driving in traffic, when two cars sidled up and blocked him. Chaining his hands, they took him to a toilet where he was kept for several days with the instruction, 'if you open your eyes, we will shoot you.' They starved him and gave him no water for four days. When he thought things were at their worst, Fr Bazi tried off-beat humour to show them they were not getting to him, and thus make them
|Mary O'Regan, Fr Douglas Bazi|
doubt their efforts to hurt him, by saying to the young men of ISIS, 'this is a picnic'. But he concedes that this was, 'a very bad idea' and only motivated the very young Islamic men to torture him more brutally. They went from chaining him to a toilet, to taking a hammer and breaking his back teeth and smashing a disc in his back. When he was alone, Fr Bazi would use the chains that bound him as a means of saying the Rosary, each link would be used to count Hail Mary's. Fr Bazi used all his remaining strength to forgive them and this was the secret of his survival: he didn't grow bitter and cold towards them and when these emotionally disturbed young men needed a friendly ear, they told Fr Bazi their problems.
Fr Bazi was clear that he readily forgave these unstable young men at every moment. During the day, these jumpy young men who had been lured by promises of being a prince in Heaven (ISIS teaches their wards that if they kill an infidel priest, they will be made princes in the next life) would ask Fr Bazi for advice on their marital problems and their other issues. One complained about his lady saying, 'Fr Bazi, my wife is so picky, I can't please her!'
At this point in the talk, me and my fellow parishioners surprised ourselves by chuckling at the hapless young men. Fr Bazi said smiling, 'I advised him to be sweeter to his wife, and try a little gentleness.'
Getting inside the mind of these young men who are desperate to prove themselves, Fr Bazi said, 'I knew that these young men were under orders from their higher-ups, after they had asked me to listen to their problems, they would get new instructions and then torture me at night.' Fr Bazi tackled the question of forgiveness directly, 'yes, I forgive them, but I can't forget. And I am not here to tell you to hate them or their religion, but to tell you the reality.'
After ISIS had let him go, Fr Bazi has dedicated himself to running a refugee camp for persecuted Christian families who are fleeing Mosul. The families are given this choice, they either convert to Islam or pay taxes. If they don't pay the ransom for their souls, they are hunted out of their homes. Fr Bazi said it is very tempting to harass Christians so that their houses can be seized and looted, once the Christian family have fled their neighbourhood.
The persecuted families now live cheek-by-jowl in the camp, but 'they never call each other refugees, they call each other relatives.' Conditions are cramped: each family has a tiny container, about five foot by ten foot. Married men say to Fr Bazi, 'my wife has become like my sister, we never have any privacy.' Fr Bazi says it is difficult on girls and young women, 'who have to wait until night fall to change their clothes.'
Fr Bazi said that when Iraqi Christians meet each other for the first time, they ask each other, 'do you live in a house or a container?'
If the current persecution continues, Christianity will have disappeared from Iraq in five years. Even more precise details of the plight of the Iraqi Christians is to be found in, Persecuted and Forgotten? A report on the countries worldwide where Christians suffer for their faith.
After the talk, some red wine was served and Fr Bazi got to mingle with the audience. There was a collection for Aid to the Church in Need. I'm going to get in touch with Fr Bazi and give him a copy of Drunks and Monks, John Carmichael's humour and his amazing conversion story will buoy Fr Bazi's spirits as he works all hours in the refugee camp.
|Neville Kyrke-Smith of ACN and Fr Bazi|
A million thanks to Daniel Blackman for taking photos at the talk and putting them on Flickr. See the full album here.
|Neville Kyrke-Smith, Mary O'Regan|