So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Monday, June 19, 2017

Father Karam Alraban: Iraqi Catholic Priest to Victoria Parish.

A long way from home, Fr. Karam Alraban tells his story and the story of his people.

Read the entire article by Sarah Petrescu (Times Colonist) at:
Edited for Length
“The experience of being Christian in Iraq is one marked with lots of conflict and difficult times,” said Alraban, 29, in his new office at Holy Cross Parish in Gordon Head. The priest grew up in Baghdad and came to Canada in 2014, one of about 300 Iraqis granted refugee status that year.

Alraban started seminary school at 15. He was in his early 20s studying at a monastery when a terrorist attack on his family church turned his world upside down.

“It was the year before my graduation, on Oct. 31, 2010. That was the huge event that was a shock for me,” Alraban said.

During Mass, five terrorists entered the church. “They started to shoot people and throw grenades,” he said.

It would become known around the world as the Baghdad church massacre. Fifty-eight people were killed and dozens maimed and wounded.

Many of the victims were his friends, schoolmates and relatives.

“They killed two of the most important people in my life,” Alraban said — priests Thaer Abdal, 33, and Waseem Sabeh, 27.

During the attack, the terrorists, later identified as Islamic militants, told parishioners they were being taken hostage in retaliation for an alleged kidnapping in Egypt.

Alraban said when the terrorists entered the church, Abdal was just finishing the homily. “He said: ‘If you want to take a hostage or kill someone, don’t hurt the innocent people. Come and take me, kill me, but don’t kill anyone else in the church,’ ” he said. Fifteen bullets were later recovered from Abdal’s body. The priest’s brother was shot and killed while trying to help him. His mother was also shot. She now uses a wheelchair.

The other priest, Sabeh, tried to help parishioners escape from a side door. When a security guard offered to help him hide, Sabeh said: “No, I will go back. I will never leave my people,” Alraban said. Sabeh asked the terrorists if they could have a peaceful conversation. “They shot him immediately,” he said.

He recounted other tragic stories, like that of the nine-month-old boy shot in the head by a terrorist because his mother could not stop him from crying.

“Imagine that. Nine months old,” he said.

There is another story that he believes shows God’s presence with the victims that day.

“There was a three-year-old child named Adam. Among these attacks, he left his parents and stood in the middle of the church. He yelled at the terrorists: ‘Enough, enough,’ ” Alraban said. “I believe this child would not have been able to do that by himself unless he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to deliver the message of peace and invite the terrorists to stop.”

The child was killed, along with his father.

Alraban said the story of Raghda Wafi is one of the most painful for him.

Wafi was a friend who was newly married and had gone to the hospital behind the church with her husband for a pregnancy test. Her husband said he would wait for the results if she wanted to go to Mass.

Alraban said Wafi was in a group of people that tried to hide in the church sacristy during the attack. They blocked the door with a bookshelf, but the attackers blew a hole in it and threw grenades into the small, packed room.

“According to her husband, the last phone call was after one of the grenades was thrown. She was bleeding and told her husband: ‘Don’t worry, my beloved. I will die, but I want you to have hope in your life.’ She wasn’t able to continue the conversation and she died.”

“The church now has no priest. They’ve all died. People started coming to me, hugging me and saying: ‘We’re putting our hope on you, father. You’re going to be the one to carry the mission.’ ” 

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