Surviving ISIS: "At night they would torture me, during the day I was giving these young men advice on their marriage problems"

At my parish of the London Oratory, Fr Douglas Bazi gave a talk in St Wilfrid's hall, the long drawing room with dazzlingly high ceilings.  Aid to the Church in Need have brought Fr Bazi from Iraq. He gave one of the most fascinating talks I've ever heard; it was both inspiring and heartbreaking.  He says that if a young Catholic man in Iraq decides to become a priest, he knows he will be martyred, 'to be a priest in Iraq is a one way mission; you will be killed.'

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

Comments

  1. I am continually amazed at the spirit and love of my brothers and sisters in Christ who remain so resilient in these difficult times. I offer up my rosary for you all each day that the Lord may protect you and save you; in this life and the next. I wish I could do more for you so my poor prayers will have to suffice for now.

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    1. Prayer is very powerful! Remember the battle of Lepanto! Our Lady of Victory, pray for us! Pope St Pius V, pray for us!

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  2. I am continually amazed at the spirit and love that my brothers and sisters in Christ have during these difficult and dark times. In America, it is easy for us to say we are Christian. We might have someone say something nasty to us, but we are never in fear for our lives. Our faith in Jesus costs us nothing, but your faith costs you everything. I offer up my prayers for you all every day when I recite my Rosary. I wish I could do more, but please know that you are in my prayers and the prayers of countless others.

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  3. This article is brings me sadness and at the same time a sense of joy at the resilance of Iraqi Christians. I especially admire Father for hsi courage and his forgiveness.

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  4. Reading things like this is so inspiring and makes one think how lucky we are to be able practice our religion openly without fear. Yes, there has been a dramatic change in the US of intolerance against the religious, but God never truly deserts His people. Sometimes, It is the price we pay for the precious gift of faith.

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  5. I offer a decade of my Rosary daily for these Iraqi Christians, and others in the Middle East who suffer such persecution for their Faith and their country! I wish there was something more I could do. If there are any suggestions, please let me know....

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    1. Dear Mary Kay,

      Thank you for your comment. Well done for continually remembering the Iraqi Christians in your Rosary each day.

      The charity that brought Fr Bazi over, AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED, have a donations page here: http://www.acnuk.org/donate2.php

      I hope that helps.

      God bless you,

      Mary

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  6. How can we help? Is there a way to donate to the cause of Iraqi Christians that are refugees? Or to the church that is helping Father spread the awareness. God bless our priests we must pray for them, they are voices of hope many need. - Lisa

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  7. Is there anyway we can help? Is there some way to donate to refugees from Iraq, or maybe to the Church that has help Father spread awareness? God bless this priest, we need to pray for them so much, they are our light and hope in so much darkness. Thank you for this article.

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    1. Hi, Lisa,

      Thank you for your comment.

      You may make a donation here: http://www.acnuk.org/donate2.php And you can select Iraq in the donations category.

      Good on you for wanting to donate.

      Mary

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  8. Thank you for sharing this ;
    The Church in Need is also able to support Iraquis AFIK ;
    hoping that Rev.Fr.Bazi would be able to make arrangements for The Vilnius Image of Mercy ,
    to be brought into many afflicted areas ;
    easy to download from this site of St.Faustina's Congregation -

    http://www.faustina-message.com/

    Glad that The Chaldean Church is in full communion with the Catholic Church as we pray for more of the blessings from same for all there .

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