In his Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, on “The Word of God in the Life and the Mission of the Church,” Pope Benedict XVI challenged Islamic countries to offer the same religious freedom that Muslims usually enjoy in predominantly Christian countries.
Alas, the news is far from encouraging in countries such as Iraq and Egypt, where a recent spate of bomb attacks was manifestly aimed at scaring Christians out of their respective countries. A suicide attack on the Syriac Catholic cathedral in Baghdad in late October, which killed over 50 people, and a similar attack on January 1 on al-Qiddissin (the Saints) Coptic Church in Alexandria, killing 23 and injuring dozens more, were the most serious of them.
Despite this wave of terror, the Catholic Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, Iraq, Msgr. Louis Sako, was quoted as saying “we will resist and we will remain,” in an apparent response to a plea by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has called on Christians not to leave Iraq (AsiaNews.it, December 27). “For us Christians of Iraq,” Monsignor Sako added on December 31, “martyrdom is the charism of our Church, in its 2000 year history. As a minority, we are constantly faced with difficulties and sacrifices, but we are aware that bearing witness to Christ can mean martyrdom. In the Arabic language they have the same root: Shahid wa shahiid!”