By Angelus News
Father Douglas Bazi has suffered for his Christian faith in
ways most Americans can’t fathom. A native of Iraq, the Chaldean
Catholic priest has been shot at, kidnapped and tortured.
“One day, I believe they will kill me,” Father Bazi says.
Now, he’s working alongside the Knights of Columbus to raise awareness about the plight of Christians in his homeland.
During the month of September, the Knights sponsored a
60-second commercial to call attention to the ongoing struggle of Iraq’s
Christians, driven from their ancestral homes by ISIS during the summer
of 2014. About 100,000 have been living in refugee camps ever since.
Father Bazi is helping to lead the exiled Christian
community and was featured in the commercial, asking viewers to “save my
And while most people refer to the displaced Christians as
refugees living in camps, Father Bazi prefers not to think in those
terms. In the appeal, he refers to centers.
“I call it a center because camp is a negative word,”
Father Bazi told The Tidings. “And I never call them refugees. I call
The Mar Elia center where Father Bazi lives is currently
hosting 110 families. The families were living in tents for many months
but are now in steel caravans, or small manufactured structures. The
caravans offer a bit more protection, but each family is squeezed into a
space that measures 10 feet by 20 feet.
“If they are seven or five or two people, it’s just for one
family. Of course there are no restrooms. We use the public one that is
beside the center,” Father Bazi said.
When asked what message he would like the world to know
about the crisis facing his people, Father Bazi boils it down to three
words: pray, help and save.
“First, I ask for prayers for us, because with faith, we
can survive. It makes us so that we cannot give up suddenly,” Father
Bazi said. “When our heart has faith, we can help and deal with this
In the midst of so much difficulty, he is forging ahead,
baptizing babies, celebrating Mass, training catechists and directing a
school for 388 students. After school hours, he returns to Mar Elia
Church until 8 or 9 p.m.
Still, more than a year has passed since the Christians
were pushed from their homes and many wonder what the future holds for
them. They long to be reunited with loved ones, many of whom have
scattered around the globe over the last decade. The younger women say
they would be afraid to ever return to their homes, worried that they
too could be captured by ISIS and sold as sex slaves.
“People here, they are dying by sorrow. That’s why I say,
please save us,” Father Bazi said. “Among my people, no one blames God
for what happened. They blame man.”
The Knights of Columbus was one of the first organizations
to commit to helping the Christians of Iraq when the ISIS onslaught
began. The new effort, launched Sept. 3, financed the delivery of one
month’s supply of food to more than 13,500 displaced families from Mosul
and Nineveh who fled to the Erbil area in Kurdistan.
The food assistance is part of the Knights’ multi-million
dollar initiative to help the persecuted Christian and other religious
minorities of the Middle East. The latest effort will bring the Knights
of Columbus’ assistance in the Middle East to more than $4 million
overall, with $2 million having been raised since the end of July,
according to the Knights.
Each one-month food package typically contains staples such
as tins of fish and meat, as well as rice, sugar, cooking oil, tomato
sauce, beans, cheese, wheat and pasta. The $60 per package cost includes
transportation and packaging, for a total cost of $810,000.
Mark Arabo, a San Diego businessman, is an advocate on
behalf of the Christians of Iraq. Active in the Chaldean Catholic
community, he’s traveled the country and has spoken at more than 100
churches and organizations, trying to get people to recognize the dire
situation of Iraq’s beleaguered Christian community.
“It’s a genocide. People are being targeted and killed just because they’re Christians. It’s heartbreaking,” Arabo said.
He’s also visited Congress and the White House, but admits it hasn’t done much good.
“You would think that if you go to Congress or White House
or the president and said there is a genocide happening in real time and
these are the victims who are being killed … you would think we would
do what we did in Bosnia, but we’re not. The government is failing. We
can’t put humanity in the hands of our government,” Arabo said. The
support of the Knights of Columbus for the region’s Christians, Arabo
said, is “amazing” and deeply appreciated.
“God bless them and give them the clarity and the strength
to carry the mission forward,” Arabo said. “We need as much awareness of
the plight of Christians in the Middle East as possible. Christianity
is on life support in the Middle East — it’s under attack and the
frontlines are here in America.”