The Fierce Persecution Around the World Aims to Destroy Christianity
Local priests attest to ongoing struggle, explosion of faith
By Joyce Coronel, The Catholic Sun
“Without the Eucharist, Christians in Iraq cannot survive.”
These are the words spoken by Fr. Ragheed Ganni, a young Chaldean Catholic priest martyred in Mosul, Iraq, alongside three sub-deacons in 2007. His cause for beatification being open, Fr. Ganni may soon be among those the Church calls “blessed”.
Around the world, the persecution of Christians has intensified, and it is their plight and powerful faith that has inspired the organizers of this year’s Arizona Rosary celebration to honor the Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady, Help of Persecuted Christians.
The annual event takes place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 16 at the Phoenix Convention Center, 33 S. 3rd Street.
Among those present at the celebration will be Fr. Peter Patros, pastor of Mar Abraham Chaldean Catholic Church in Scottsdale and parish administrator of Holy Cross Mission in Gilbert.
The Diocese of Phoenix is home to thousands of Chaldean Catholics all belonging to the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter based in El Cajon, California. The Chaldeans belong to one of 23 Eastern Rite Catholic churches in communion with Rome, many of which have members living in the Diocese of Phoenix.
They know well the bloody but unsuccessful attempts to crush Christianity. For Christians in the Middle East, persecution is a permanent reality. Although born in the United States, Fr. Patros carries within him the legacy of martyrdom.
“We have witnessed, not just hundreds of years ago, not just centuries ago, but here and today we have witnessed the persecution, the death of our own neighbors, our own friends and of our own families because we bear the Christian name, because we have been marked by the blood of the Lamb”, Fr Patros said.
“Because we carry that with us – what we’ve seen, what we’ve heard – we carry the trauma, but we also carry the great healing that Christ offers.”
Mar Abraham’s former pastor, Bishop Felix Shabi, was linked to the martyr father. Ganni. “We have the blood of martyrs running through our veins,” Bishop Shabi said The Catholic Sun in a previous interview.
Even after receiving repeated death threats, Fr. Ganni was determined to continue offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for his parishioners. On June 3, 2007, as he and the three subdeacons were walking away from Holy Spirit Parish, they were approached by armed men. One of them demanded to know why Fr. Ganni, after being warned earlier, had not closed the church.
“How can I close the house of God? Pr. Ganni replied The armed men demanded that Fr. Ganni and his companions convert to Islam. For their refusal, they were fatally shot.
47e Annual Arizona Rosary Celebration
2 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. Sunday, October 16
Phoenix Convention Center
33 S. Third Street
Halls F and G
Confession, Adoration, Exhibitions, Procession and Rosary
Featured speaker: Rev. James Phalan, CSC of Holy Cross Family Ministries
Sponsored by the Knights of Columbus
[email protected] or (602) 677-2029
Prof. Patros said he visited Iraq in 2018 and 2019. His parents and five elder siblings left their native country as it was in the throes of war.
“My family fled war-torn Iraq in the early 90s – fled on foot in the middle of the night from Zakho to Turkey to live in refugee camps for a few years until they found asylum in 2003 in America,” the father said. said Patros.
Thousands of miles away, in the safety of the parishes of the Diocese of Phoenix, scenes like this seem surreal. Unfortunately, they are not that rare. From Afghanistan to North Korea and from Nicaragua to Nigeria, all over the world, followers of Christ face brutal persecution – often state-sanctioned.
In Nigeria, for example, thousands of Christians have been killed by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Others died at the hands of Fulani herdsmen. There was no governmental repression against the expansion of the genocide. According to Catholic News Agency, more than 3,400 Christians were killed in Nigeria in the first 200 days of 2021.
Fifteen priests from Nigeria currently serve in the Diocese of Phoenix, including Fr. Fidelis Igwenwanne. He is a chaplain at the Carl T. Hayden Veterans Administration Medical Center in Phoenix and said he knows some of the priests who have been kidnapped and/or killed in his homeland.
“In Nigeria, Christians bear witness to their faith every day by shedding their blood,” the father said. said Igwenwanne. “Some people think it’s like a fantasy or a distant story of something that happened many years ago that’s out of reach. No. It’s still happening.
In fact, so many priests have been kidnapped in Nigeria, he said, that the country’s episcopal conference refuses to pay ransoms or enter into negotiations to secure the release of clergy. According to The Pillar, in the diocese of Kafanchan alone, six priests have been abducted in eight months.
“What the kidnappers or abductors are asking for is money, money, money and negotiations with the Church. The bishops say, ‘You can’t negotiate with the devil,’” the father said. said Igwenwanne.
Individuals, often family members of the victims, paid ransoms and negotiated the victims’ release, but they were not sponsored by the Church, the father said. said Igwenwanne.
What is happening in Nigeria is a constant reminder of the famous adage that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church,” the Father said. Igwenwanne noted. He has not traveled to Nigeria since 2015 when his father passed away.
“I don’t like going home because of this problem. Every time I come home, I hide.
It is a perspective that few Americans can understand and yet one that calls for solidarity with the persecuted Church and prayers for her protection, prayers like those that will take place during the celebration of the Rosary in Arizona.
“Keep praying. Put it in your daily prayers, to pray for persecuted Christians,” the father said. said Igwenwanne.
Visit azrosary.net for more information on celebrating the Rosary in Arizona.