Thursday, 2 March 2017

Forgiveness and Compassion of an Iraqi Priest - Father Naeem Ayub Shoshandy

Father Naeem Ayub Shoshandy is a 33-year-old Iraqi priest who cannot hold back his tears as he describes the terrible flight on the night of August 6, 2014, when the difficulties, kidnappings, and killing of Christians culminated in the Islamic State's invasion of the Nineveh plain, including his village of Qaraqosh. Fr. Naeem recalls the fire of the mortars, the lifeless bodies of the children who were playing in the street, and finally, the Bishop's decision to flee from Nineveh, leading the Christian community in order to escape from death. Later, when they arrived in Kurdistan, they were exhausted, frightened, “And… when we arrived there… we found ourselves in the street…”

They have been in tents and in prefabricated metal barracks for two years, suffering all sorts of hardships, but sharing the little they have with refugees of other religions, including Muslims. Father Naeem explains, "We have these problems because we have left everything, absolutely everything in our city, in order to save and maintain our faith. Because we could have remained in our city only under three conditions: by apostatizing from our faith and converting to Islam, by paying the yizia, or by death.”

The Iraqi Christians call the priests "the children of the resurrection," not only because of the efforts they make to provide them with the necessary aid on a human level, but above all because hope has triumphed every day in the Kurdistan refugee camps thanks to their spiritual work.

Fr. Naeem saw his own brother die at the hands of the Islamic State's henchmen. He has forgiven the murderers, and does not hesitate to say, "(Forgiveness) makes me a real Christian, and not just a Christian by name."

It is worth listening to his testimony and allowing yourself to be moved by Father Naeem's tears. Hopefully, these tears will soften our hardened hearts, so that we may receive the lesson of faith, of heroic hope, of complete trust in God, and of forgiveness that our Iraqi brothers and sisters offer us.

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