worldwatchmonitor.org - It was 2001 and Saad Hanna watched in horror as his TV showed the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center smouldering and collapsing. Then a trainee priest studying in Italy, he said to fellow seminarians, “The world is turning upside down. The Americans will not let this be.”

With this flashback, the now-Bishop Hanna sets the scene for what he would endure five years later. In a first-person account, he vividly relates the 27 days of his kidnap and torture at the hands of Sunni armed men in a book, ‘Abducted in Iraq: a priest in Baghdad’.

It was 2006 and the tide of anger that followed the US-led dismantling of the government of President Saddam Hussein, and much of the country’s infrastructure, was fast-flowing and destructive. The young Baghdadi priest was driving home after a Mass and a big celebratory meal on the Feast of the Assumption, when four armed men ordered him from his car and pushed him onto the floor of theirs. He didn’t know them and believed they had the wrong man. Between beatings, his captors accused him of collaborating with the Americans.

In a dynamic that has become all too familiar to people concerned about Iraqi minorities, the priest found himself not only at the mercy of violent extremists, but also let down by members of the international community who could have rescued him. In a brief moment of contact with a world beyond his blindfold, he was handed a mobile phone, through which a member of the coalition forces told him: “We do not have orders to come and liberate people from kidnap.”

At another point, he was given a phone and told to talk to the Chaldean Patriarch, Emmanuel Delly, but a prisoner exchange promised by his captors didn’t materialise.

Unable to see his surroundings, Hanna invites the reader on his inner journey: of hopes raised and dashed; of holding on to his faith; to a Gethsemane-like acceptance of death; and into his near-obsession with “the malleability of time”, which preoccupies him when he is deprived of sight and freedom.

Bishop Hanna varies the pace well between the rapid, intrusive violence and long periods of isolation and reflection, in which his deep spirituality comes to the fore. His recollections are philosophical, elegantly expressed, and coloured not with bitterness but with incomprehension and an un-self-conscious courage. He humanises his captors as much as he can manage. “They too were concerned, these men, and wondered what would be next,” he says.

He resolves “not to judge one faith to be above another, but to see that some people can find a rationale for violence from religion, while others find a rationale for unity”.

In his Foreword, British Catholic peer Lord David Alton invites readers to see Bishop Hanna’s story – of suffering a dual blow of extremist violence and Western inaction – as the story of all Iraqi Christians. To do this illustrates why so many Iraqi Christians believe their country is no longer safe and have sought refuge overseas, placing the future of Iraqi Christianity in question. Bishop Hanna was one of a number of clergy targeted around that time – and not all survived. Arguably, the lasting damage inflicted by Hanna’s captors was not the physical or psychological violence inflicted on the individual, but the convincing of thousands of Iraqi citizens to uproot and scatter themselves abroad.

The book ends with a reproduction of the telegram Pope Benedict XVI sent to Patriarch Delly which appeals for Hanna’s release, and a sentence listing his various roles now, inside and outside Iraq. It does not mention that the Catholic seminary where he worked relocated from Baghdad to Kurdistan because of his kidnap, or answer the questions left hanging while he was in captivity, or say at least that he still does not have answers, such as: Who were his captors? Why was he not released straight after his conversation with the Patriarch? What negotiations led to his eventual release?

For anyone exasperated by the ongoing violence in the Middle East, or wondering how best to respond to it, Bishop Hanna’s well-told account of his kidnap makes for a gripping and challenging read.

Abducted in Iraq: a priest in Baghdad

Saad Sirop Hanna with Edward S Aris

Notre Dame Press, US, 2017. 169pp

Link to Story: https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2017/12/iraq-bishop-recalls-abduction-baghdad-new-book/


Teachings of Christ

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?" (Mark 8:34-37 ESV)

Resurrection

Christ is risen from the dead * trampling down Death by death, * and upon those in the tombs bestowing life! (Troparion)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Although You descended into the tomb, O Immortal One, * You destroyed the power of Hades; * You arose as the victor, O Christ God, * proclaiming to the myrrh-bearing women: “Rejoice!” * And granting peace to Your Apostles, * O, You, Who gives resurrection to the fallen. (Kontakion)

Random Proverb

"My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you." (Proverbs 3:1,2 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

For to despise the present age, not to love transitory things, unreservedly to stretch out the mind in humility to God and our neighbor, to preserve patience against offered insults and, with patience guarded, to repel the pain of malice from the heart, to give one's property to the poor, not to covet that of others, to esteem the friend in God, on God's account to love even those who are hostile, to mourn at the affliction of a neighbor, not to exult in the death of one who is an enemy, this is the new creature whom the Master of the nations seeks with watchful eye amid the other disciples, saying: "If, then, any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are made new" (2Cor. 5:17).

The Homilies of St. Gregory the Great On the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel