Lifestyle & Belief

Baghdad's Church victims buried

Earlier this week Islamist militants took dozens of worshipers hostage at a Baghdad church, leaving 58 people dead. Reporter Jane Arraf spoke to members of the Christian community in Baghdad as they buried their dead.

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For the Christian community, this was a calamity of epic proportions, in this wave of grief each of the victims was celebrated as a martyr. It wasn't just a massacre, for many it was a message that they don't belong here anymore.

Samira George has almost gone mad with sorrow. She watched her 70-year-old husband bleed to death after being shot.

Samira George: �Never, not in an Indian movie, not in a horror movie, never has this happened anywhere in the world�

At the crypt of our lady of salvation, the Catholic church where the attack took place, Jinan is inconsolable. Her daughter, Ragdha Wafi Youssef, had been married less than two months and was newly pregnant.

Jinan (yelling): �come�. that's enough.�

There are so many to be buried, the graveyard manager tells the families they have only five minutes each. The church has been sealed off but through the broken doors you can see the blood stains splattered on the ceiling.

There are so many questions about how this happened. but an exhausted church official, monsignor Pius Kasha, says there's only one that matters.

Pius Kasha: �Today we, the Christians, demand that our country answer us, does our country love us or not? We humble ourselves and work for our country, does our country love us or not? Who will answer this question? This land is silent but the whole situation, the presidency and officials must answer.�

At the funeral mass at nearby St Joseph's, a group of cousins of one of the two priests killed sit stone-faced in the back row. These young men would be the future of this community but many, like Firas Bahjat, say they won't stay.

Firas Bahjat: �There is no future for Christians in Iraq. I am frankly talking and for all the people who want to live in peace. The government cannot protect people who want to live in peace.�

Across town in new Baghdad, Father Douglas al-Bazi says he has fewer than 300 families left in his parish. Before the war there were more than 2,000, more decided to leave this week.

Father Douglas al-Bazi : �Of course I cannot ask for anyone to stay. Everyone tell me �Father I am sorry, I will leave'. I tell them don't be sorry ok? Nobody push you to be dead.�

Christians were in Iraq centuries before Islam came and as long as they didn't interfere in politics, they here were relatively safe before the war. But since 2003 almost half of them have fled the country. Father Douglas was shot and kidnapped four years ago, in the new Iraq.

Father Douglas al-Bazi: �I consider myself that I am are really lucky guy that I am still alive. I still pay for what happen to me because last January I made surgery in my back and still I have pain and I lose all my teeth � it's new. I made also surgery for my nose because they broke my face they use hammer I stay there nine days.�

He says Christians here have been abandoned � including by their own church.

Father Douglas al-Bazi : �Who cares about Christians in Iraq? No one. Who helps Christians in Iraq? No one, all these years. The first one the Vatican. We have from Vatican � null. Zero. �The only thing we have is �we feel sorry about Christians in Iraq. Also, the Moslem they feel sorry.�

Some here believe what was set in motion this week is what happened to Iraqi Jews more than half a century ago. They fled after a series of explosions � they are essentially gone now.

Father Douglas says he believes every priest here will eventually be killed but as long as there are Christians here he will stay to be with whoever is left.