The number of victims in Iraq is chilling. The damage that is occurring to these lives in this country and ultimately in the world is irreparable. It is a nameless tragedy.
Given that the news that you receive is so terrible, yet the reality of it gets lost in the statistics. It’s too big for our mind to comprehend.
Therefore I would like to tell you the situation which I heard about today of a family. This is to put a face to the tragedy. Not in the sense that you will see a picture or know a name. No, out of respect for the victims, these things are not included in this story. Only the news itself, so that each of you who hears the statistics of those who are persecuted, can think of a similar story in each case. Statistics do not present the real person who is suffering.
Today two women came to me to ask for the certificates of baptism of several members of their families. As I told you earlier, this is a certificate they need in order to ask for a visa to leave the country. As I usually do, I asked them if they were leaving; they said yes and told me why.
They live near Baghdad but they have relatives in Qaraqosh, the most Christian city in the country, which was captured a few days ago by the terrorists called the Islamic State.
Forewarned that the city was about to be taken, almost all their relatives fled Qaraqosh, leaving behind everything they had. They could not take any of their belongings with them. But three of them could not leave the city; the mother of one of them is old and is sick, so she could not escape; along with her there stayed back her son (the brother of the lady who told me this narration) and his wife.
The terrorists visited them daily to force them to convert to Islam. They talked with the brother of this lady and on his repeated refusal, they told him that they gave him a few days; if he does not convert, they would take away his wife and giver her to one of the soldiers, and that they would kill him and his mother.
At one point, when the family was able to go out of the house, they tried to flee in a car. But they were arrested outside the city and brought back. They do not allow any Christians to flee who had not already left before their coming. They give them only one option: Islam or death.
They are not able to go out of the house because if the woman leaves alone they would capture her, if the husband goes out alone, they would enter the house and take away his wife, and if the two leave together, they would take the house, and leave the mother in the street or kill her.
They have no power most of the time, they had some food in the fridge but now it is almost finished and they are unable to go out, they cannot buy food and there is almost no water. The militants have placed a siege around their home, waiting them to for yield, or to die of hunger or thirst.
Even their neighbors, with whom they had got along well in the past, whom they had known all their lives, have become their enemies. When the neighbors see them in the courtyard, they urge them to convert and they mistreat them.
The Did you mean: Casi no tienen electricidad, tienen algunos víveres en la heladera pero ya casi se acaban y al no poder salir, no pueden comprar comida y casi no tienen agua. Los han cercado en su propia casa esperando que cedan, o mueran de hambre o sed. Los mismos vecinos, antes gente con la cual se llevaban bien, que se conocen de toda la vida, se han transformado en enemigos. Cuando los ven en el patio los urgen a que se conviertan y los maltratan.
Terrorists have removed the crosses from the churches, have desecrated the churches using them for other purposes, and enter the houses of Christians who have fled and take away everything of value, and destroy their businesses.
They go into the homes of the Christians who remain in order to take away the women.
According to this lady, there are more Christian families in the city in this situation than what is reported. According to her, there are 150 such families. They are all alone with no one to help them. All of them are condemned to a slow death or to wait for the terrorists to enter and kill them. The man who was there with his mother and wife confessed that he preferred that they enter and kill them as soon as possible and it will all be over.
This is just one true story of the thousands which are being lived out in Iraq right now. It is a story we have to remember when we hear the numbers that are reported. Because it is the only way that statistics remain no longer just as numbers, but reach the bottom of our hearts.
We ask for prayers for these families who are surrounded and are terrified in their homes. May God give them His strength.
Let us pray that the world will react and put an end to this barbarism.
Fr. Luis Montes, IVE