Chaldeans praying for end to violence

img_0771_12.jpgBy Malin Jordan
  SURREY–It wasn’t the usual Sunday Mass for Chaldean Catholic worshippers at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Surrey Nov. 14. Instead, the usual smiles, kind words, and handshakes exchanged between family and friend were replaced by sorrow, tears, and mourning.

Chaldean Catholics gathered that day to pray for the victims of the attack on worshippers at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad Oct. 31. That day gunmen attacked the church during Mass, killing over 50 Catholics, including three young priests, and wounding another 70.

“We prayed for the victims and their families,” said Father Sarmed Biloues, who shepherds the Chaldean Catholic parishioners. “We need to show support for the people and raise awareness about the problem.”

That problem, Father Biloues related, is one of protection. He said the government and foreign powers that have a stake in Iraq don’t care to support or defend Catholics because the minority group has no real power.

“Nobody cares about us,” he said. “There is a lot of persecution going on. It’s really difficult to say what is exactly happening.”

Father Biloues said there are always soldiers guarding the cathedral, but for some reason that day, they disappeared before the attack.

“We feel government allowed it somehow. The archbishop in Baghdad said that. Why were there no soldiers to protect the church that day?”

Father Biloues said Iraqi Catholics need protection. He said the country is a country divided between the minorities and a majority.

“The minorities in Iraq are disappearing completely. The Mandeans, Yazidis, Yarsan, Shabak, and Baha’is, all of them are refugees; now Catholics, too.”

He added that the attack was incredibly hard for everyone to fathom because it happened in a church. “This is the safest place to be. The church has to be the safest place in the world. We always go to the church to be safe.”

He said he lived in Iraq for 33 years, and in dangerous situations Chaldeans always went to their church.

“We are saying enough. It’s really hard for Iraqis everywhere. There are a lot of families leaving Baghdad every day.”

Father Biloues asked his parishioners to fast for three days and to wear black.

“We are very sad that our brothers and sisters are getting killed in Baghdad and nobody cares.”