From the Back Pew: Their power is faith

November 18, 2010|By Michael J. Arvizu

This past Sunday, more than 350 worshipers gathered at Jesus Sacred Heart Antiochene Syriac Catholic Church in North Hollywood to memorialize the 58 people who were killed Oct. 31 during a siege of Baghdad's Sayidat al-Nejat (Our Lady of Salvation), a Syriac Catholic church.

According to news reports, the siege lasted several hours and has been linked to Al Qaeda gunmen. And after all was said and done, 58 people were dead, including two priests, 17 security officers and five gunmen.

Syriac Catholic Noel Habash of Burbank lost four family members in the attack. They were the nephews of his father-in-law.

I tried to imagine for a moment what it would be like if those had been my relatives who were killed, if those had been my relatives who were rescued by police.


With anger and frustration in his voice, Habash says of his family's turmoil, "Of course you're going to get mad; of course you're going to get nervous."

Now imagine for a moment that this happened in some far-off country where you were powerless to do anything. And imagine for a moment that you had relatives living in one of the most violent cities in the world.

Habash does. He has a brother and sister, each with their own big families, he said, and aunts and uncles, living in Baghdad.

"What kind of thought are you going to have?" he asked. "How are you going to hold up yourself and think normally? Every day you will keep thinking. Every day you will keep praying. Every day you will be angry. You need to see your own family live in peace."

When he s

aid that last sentence, I thought to myself, this is not unlike what the people in Ciudad Juarez are going through every day, with almost daily murders, kidnappings and unexplained disappearances. I have relatives who say they, too, fear for their lives at times, never seeming to know where the next bullet is going to come from.

I echo your sentiments, sir. I need my family to live in peace, too.

Habash believes what is happening in Iraq is nothing short of genocide, not unlike what Armenians and Jews went through. And he now has had a taste of what those families went through, he said. "Where is the government? Where is the United Nations? Where is the American government? Where is the European government?" Habash asks, his voice cracking with anger.

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