The Face of the Persecuted Church
When: 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 3
Where: Xavier College Preparatory, 4710 N. Fifth St.
Info: (480) 239-6768
By Joyce Coronel
The Catholic Sun
A Catholic priest who was kidnapped and tortured by terrorists in Iraq will speak in Phoenix May 3 in a bid to draw attention to the plight of the persecuted Church in his homeland.
Fr. Douglas Bazi lives in Erbil, Iraq and cares for the tens of thousands of families chased out of their homes by ISIS. The Chaldean Catholic priest’s Phoenix visit is one of several U.S. stops he will make to share about the suffering of his people and to ask for assistance.
A Knights of Columbus commercial repeatedly aired on national television since last fall features Fr. Bazi, who recently testified before the U.S. Congress about the Christian genocide.
Fr. Bazi spoke by telephone to The Catholic Sun about the difficult conditions in the refugee camp as well as the ordeal he endured in 2006. He has a message for Americans he hopes they will take to heart.
“First, I ask that you pray for us. When our heart has faith, we can deal with this situation,” Fr. Bazi said. “Second, help us. Faith without action is not faith actually. Third, save us.”
The Chaldean Catholic Church is known as the Church of Martyrs because of its long history of being persecuted and tortured for the faith. There were some 1.5 million Christians in Iraq prior to the 2003 American invasion. That number has plummeted to about 250,000.
Kidnapped in 2006, Fr. Bazi said his captors broke his nose. “They chained me for nine days and covered my eyes. I spent the first four days without water.” During the day, the kidnappers spoke to him about their problems, but at night, they would blast a recording of the Quran to muffle his screams during the beatings. His teeth and two bones in his back were broken by the blows of a hammer.
“Please don’t look at me as a hero. Who am I to complain what happened to me? As a priest in Iraq and the Middle East, we live like a one-way mission. We never know when we go out of a church if we will go back alive,” Fr. Bazi said.
Fr. Felix Shabi, corbishop of the Chaldean Catholic Vicariate of Arizona, first met Fr. Bazi in 1992 when the two were in seminary. Fr. Shabi is encouraging local Catholics to attend the May 3 event.
“This is a disciple of Jesus and he has been tortured and persecuted. It’s good to listen to a messenger coming from over there who is caring for these persecuted Christians,” Fr. Shabi said.
Dcn. Keith Esshaki of the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of St. Peter the Apostle said the number one purpose of Fr. Bazi’s trip to the U.S. was to raise awareness.
“In June it’s going to be two years and the refugees are still living in the most miserable conditions, dying slowly,” Dcn. Esshaki said. The second goal is to raise money to support the Christians in the refugee camp where Fr. Bazi lives. Many of the refugees lack medical care and are in need of medication for chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
The Knights of Columbus have raised more than $8 million to aid the Christians of Iraq and Syria. In a statement, the Knights’ Arizona State Council “strongly” encouraged the faithful to attend the event.
“[Fr. Bazi] will speak of his personal story of capture and torture at the hands of Anti-Christian terrorists,” said the statement. “Additionally, the Knights ask for your support in prayers and monetary donations needed to bring aid and comfort to those persecuted and suffering in the Middle East.”