Iraqi priest Fr Douglas Bazi, who takes care of thousands of refugees forced to flee Mosul after Islamic State took over the city last year, has a simple but pointed message for Western Europe: “Wake up!”
Fr Bazi, once a torture victim, was in Gozo yesterday to celebrate the feast of St Peter and St Paul on the invitation of Nadur archpriest Mgr Jimmy Xerri.
“We cannot celebrate the feast of two martyrs without remembering the living martyrs of our time,” Fr Xerri said.
Fr Bazi believes not enough is being done to support the thousands of persecuted Christians.
Exactly a year has passed since Islamist insurgents had issued an ultimatum to Christians remaining in northern Iraq’s city of Mosul: either convert to Islam or pay the jizya tax (a per capita tax on non-Muslims revived by IS) or face death.
This led to an exodus of more than 120,000 Christians, who flooded the towns of Kurdistan in the scorching summer heat.
Fr Bazi, 43, says IS (also known as Isis) forced the Christians to leave with just the clothes on their back. Multiple checkpoints ensured they were stripped of their money, passports and even their wedding rings.
His own story of suffering means he can look these people in the eye. Back in 2006, he was kidnapped in Baghdad and held for nine days, during which he was tortured and beaten.