In the joy of being Christians in the Middle East
On 31 October, 44 Iraqi Christians were killed during a hostage drama after gunmen stormed the main Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad, then blew themselves up.
Among them were Father Thair Sad-alla Abd-al and Father Waseem Sabeeh Al-kas Butros who died along with the faithful who were at prayer with them.
Their names join a long list of Christians who have died for their faith in Iraq, as Christians across the entire region face a growing threat.
Despite this barbaric act, we, as Arab Christians, want to reaffirm our joy and our desire to live out our Christian faith in the same land where Christ died and rose again for our salvation, and where his apostles told the good news to our ancestors.
The Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity. We have lived here since Pentecost, when the Spirit inspired our forefathers who expressed their faith through diversity as Greek Catholics, Syriac Catholics, Copts, Maronites, Armenians, Latins, Lutherans and Anglicans – all of whom confess on holy, catholic and apostolic church.
In the tradition of the early Church, we ask that those who died as martyrs be honoured as saints. We call for the canonisation of the following fallen brothers:
— Father Thair Sad-alla Abd-al and Father Waseem Sabeeh Al-kas Butros and their companions who were killed on 31 October in Baghdad’s Syriac church
— The Chaldean Sisters Fawzeiyah and Margaret Naoum, who were stabbed to death on 26 March 2007
— Father Raghid Aziz Ganni and sub-deacons Yousef Daoud, Wahid Hanna Isho and Gassan Issam Bidawid, also Chaldeans who were killed on 3 June 2007 in Mosul
— Monsignor Paulos Faraj, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosel, who was found dead on 13 March 2008
(list to be completed)
We also remember brothers from other churches who died for their faith:
— Syriac Orthodox Father Boulos Iskandar, killed in Baghdad on 9 October 2006
— Father Joseph Petros, killed in Baghdad on 9 October 2006
— Father Amer Iskander, Syriac Orthodox, who was found beheaded on 11 October 2006
— Reverend Mundher Aldayr, a Protestant minister who was killed in Mosul on 26 November 2006
(list to be completed)
What better way of showing the unity of God’s Church than by returning to the ancient practice of declaring the martyrs to be saints?
As Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10). And in John 15:20, he reminds us: “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”
If, as Tertullian said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church,” then we ask that the martyrdom of our people be officially recognised so that we may take root in the land.
For this reason, we sign this petition calling for all the Christian martyrs of Iraq to be canonised, so that the example of their life and sacrifice be an inspiration to all of us, Arab and international Christians, who are living in the Middle East.