A year ago a horrific attack on Iraqi Christians by a group associated with al-Qaeda killed 46 men, women and children and wounded 60 more. It was the worst attack on Christians in the region since the war began in 2003 and started an exodus of Christians from the region that has not stopped.
Bishop Pierre Whalon writes about his participation in an service that marked the anniversary, the attack itself and the larger context and implications of vanishing of Christian people from the Middle East.
He starts with this description of the anniversary service:
” I scanned the congregation from my seat at the altar of the little church in Paris, Notre Dame de Chaldée. Their faces have become familiar to me: young women in black clutching small children, their long black hair and dark eyes blending into their widow’s weeds. And the parents whose children were murdered: the mothers also in black, the fathers in ill-fitting suits. Several young women dressed less somberly, despite their mutilations. They are learning to use prostheses, like the pretty professor who used to teach computer science at university before her feet were virtually blown off. One tall man, dressed in grunge-style, nursed his shattered leg, still covered in pins after the multiple surgeries of the past year.
They blended into the larger congregation, also familiar faces: similarly dressed, covering similar wounds and nursing the same dark griefs: loss of loved ones, loss of beloved country, of livelihood, status and dignity. The year-old arrivals are not of the same church, so they sat separately during the long Chaldean liturgy in Aramaic, Jesus’ language, punctuated by the celebrant’s few brief sentences in French. Their own prayer language is Syriac, and the two communities can understand each other’s ancient liturgical tongue, though Arabic is otherwise used. Seven priests participated — Syriac Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Chaldeans. Deacons of both churches led each community separately in hymns. It was like having two choirs. Everyone took the Eucharist together. Though I am an Episcopal bishop, I was asked to wear a stole, sit next to the altar and participate, except that I was not offered (and did not expect to take) communion.”
Much more here. Do go and read. Too few people are paying attention to this alarming trend.