“O Lord Jesus, adorable king: who conquered death through his suffering. O Son of God who promised us: new life in his kingdom of above. Remove all our calamities: and in their place, peace and mercy.”
A Chaldean priest from Iraq sang these words in Aramaic as I approached the altar that is home to the closest tabernacle to the White House.
Father Douglas Bazi was in Washington, D.C., to plead with the United States government to recognize that a genocide is happening to his people, currently exiled in Kurdistan. He had been part of a news conference two days before where a report from the Knights of Columbus and In Defense of Christians laid out evidence that there is a genocide being committed against Christians and other religious minorities by the terrorists known as the Islamic State.
Those words were being sung in the language our Lord spoke as I approached the Eucharistic table. It was Saturday morning, and the Catholic Information Center opened its doors for a Mass for our persecuted brothers and sisters. We all came with the prayer that the U.S. might do the right thing and recognize the genocide. As Father Bazi put it, we’re simply asking that the truth is told. Certainly, this is true of genocide.
“Truth is like a threshing-machine; tender sensibilities must keep out of the way,” Herman Melville wrote in “The Confidence-Man.” Father Bazi calls “genocide” the “polite word” for what is happening, perhaps the most revealing window he opens into the details into his own suffering. He does not feel the need to recount in graphic detail his own torture at the hands of Islamic militants.
Under captivity, he had teeth knocked out with a hammer. Koranic prayers on high were on in the background so no one would hear him scream. He never did scream or surrender — except to our Lord. Prayers that were once rote consumed him. You remember those you love most, he remembered. You don’t care about yourself as you do them. You don’t want them to suffer.
And doesn’t that sound like our God?
His people had to abandon their homes in one night, fleeing ISIS, taking nothing with them. Don’t feel guilty that this is our cross, he said to me.
He and his people aren’t bitter, and he’s not here for pity. He displayed great humor and joy in my time with him over two days here. He emphasizes that not one of them blames God. They want to be faithful and live in community as tools of Jesus until their time comes to be with him.
I sure see Christ in his witness and testimony and in his fatherly words.
He told me that we’re not just called to carry the cross but to follow. So live as Jesus did; walk the way as he did, with peace and union with the Father.
Later, at Mass, he sang:
“When you return, let us arise: to come meet you, as you desire. We glorify you for your grace: with ‘hosannas’ sung to your name. Mercy flows to humanity: your love shines on mortality. ... Amen, amen.”
Arise and remember your brothers and sisters in Christ. Those who are persecuted. Get to know their stories. Give to the Knights of Columbus’ persecuted Christians fund that is 100 percent about helping them (no overhead, direct to the Body of Christ trying to survive and rebuild). And pray not just for but with persecuted Eastern Christians, if you can. There’s nothing more powerful.
At a time of education and activism, we did the most powerful thing we could — turning to the Eucharist in thanksgiving. Thanks be to God.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).