Softly spoken, with a gentle demeanor, Fr Douglas Bazi delivers his message for the camera with quiet but unapologetic firmness. His tone is even, straightforward, but something in his voice carries an urgency. There is a sense that time is running out. There is a seriousness to what he says, maybe even a little righteous frustration. Here’s a man who one can sense is good and kind and full of compassion. But he has a message for those in Europe and around the world.
“First of all, I ask you to wake up. If you are going to be silent, it is the same those who are persecuting us. So don’t be silent. If you can, don’t just watch. Take action. And. Wake. Up.”
In 2006, Fr Douglas Bazi was kidnapped and tortured by Muslim extremists. He now encourages those of us who are not in this situation of being persecuted to wake up and take action. So here is another video about the situation in Syria and Iraq. Another, yes, but I encourage you to watch this one in a quiet moment, and give all your mind to it.
A lot of this video speaks for itself. To say it is powerful is an understatement. But it also does a disservice to the people being interviewed in the video. By calling it a ‘powerful video’ it puts it into the comfortable rhetoric of ‘us and them’- a place where we can watch events happening from afar and then open another tab online and begin browsing something else.
One of the wonderful things about this video is that it can combat the feelings of helplessness that we can feel about this subject. The priests who are in this situation have actually given us practical, concrete advice on how we can help them. Here is some of it, unpacked and expanded, plus a few more suggestions on the subjects that we respectfully offer too.
1. Know that helplessness is part of suffering.
Many people feel helpless over the situation in Syria and Iraq. We feel there is very little we can do in a practical way to stop the war. But offering your feelings of helplessness is a way of joining in the suffering of the victims of the war. Offer up!
2. Hold them in your heart and practice gratitude.
In your day to day life, don’t forget those who have been affected by this war. Remember all you have to be grateful for. When you’re bored of studying, thank God that you have the freedom to study and don’t have to leave your university midway through your course to seek safety in a refugee camp. If you’re frustrated in traffic on the drive to work, you can be thankful for a job, safe streets and the money to run a car. When you’re exhausted of your kids’ bickering and arguing, or the hassle to get them to bed on time, it can be a chance to thank God that your family is safely together in your own home.
3. Know that this is a spiritual battle as well.
It’s not just a boots-on-the-ground war, it is a war where Christianity is being attacked. Christian martyrs are being created. In what ways can we make sure we do not let our Christian brothers and sisters down? Do we hide our faith, too timid to talk about it or witness to it when required? Do we strive to live a life of integrity? Is there a niggling, hidden part of our life that we know we need to look into and ask for help or healing with? Could we stand by them and witness to our faith to the same level they are willing to give?
4. You don’t become a martyr unless it’s a cause worth giving for.
It is important to add here that the end goal is not martyrdom! We can show solidarity with our persecuted Christian brethren by becoming more alive in our faith. If it’s a faith that is worth dying for, then it’s a faith worth living for. We have the opportunity to joyfully dive into our faith even more, to embrace it and discover the life that is within it! We have a God who loves us, heals us, and brings us His peace. Show others a Church that is alive, that is faithfully striving to understand the Gospels and to share Christ’s love. The priest says in this video: “You can help us by building a society that is Christian. Active. Brave. You have to evangelize your society- again, bravely, fearlessly, to say that we are Christians. This is how you can help us.”
5. Pray for everyone involved, including ISIS
“I pray to God to take the evil from their hearts.”
War starts in people’s hearts, and it will end in people’s hearts. Pray that the hearts of those who commit such atrocities will be changed. Pray that they will discover who God really is. Pray that they will discover mercy for themselves. Pray also for politicians and world leaders, that they will act in this situation with wisdom and without their own agenda. Pray for those in the Armed Forces who are working against ISIS for an end to the war. And of course, as many people will already be doing, pray for the innocent people who are caught up in this.
“It’s the time to get to work. As a Christian, can you help us to reach the Sunday of Resurrection? Take your responsibility, and wake up. ”
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