Fr. Douglas Bazi (a.k.a Abouna Douglas Joseph Shimshon Al-Bazi) recently spoke at the 2017 Spirit in the City conference in Brisbane. He spoke of how his people, our Christian brothers and sisters, have been systematically killed or driven out of their homeland since the 2003 Iraq War destabilized his country. He told us how his church in Baghdad was bombed while he received a gunshot to the leg; he carries the bullet in his leg today.
He said, “I am going to tell you my story, of how I was captured by ISIS. It is not easy for me to tell.”
In November 2006, Fr. Bazi was kidnapped by ISIS militants (“Maybe because I look like Robert De Niro”, he joked). They bound him in chains, blindfolded and gagged him. In a room where the Quran was broadcast on television all day long, they broke his nose, tortured him with cigarettes, and smashed his face, knees and back with a hammer. He was deprived of water for four days.
Yet, like St. Paul, Fr. Bazi continued his priestly ministry in his chains. One of the terrorists came to the bound and gagged priest for advice about his wife, who kept sending him multiple messages a day. The blindfolded Fr. Bazi calmly advised the terrorist to be more loving and attentive to his wife.
Fr. Bazi realized that the chains binding his hands had exactly ten links. He admitted that under normal circumstances, he sometimes found the rosary tedious, but as he lay aching in the darkness, the scriptural prayers of the rosary illuminated his imprisonment, bringing comfort and sustenance amidst the uncertainty and pain. He was prepared to die.
Using a chain he had bought upon arrival from New Zealand, Fr. Bazi demonstrated to us how he had prayed the rosary, kissing the lock that kept him at the mercy of his kidnappers.
He also showed us his bloodstained shirt.
After nine interminable days, Fr. Bazi was released.
He said to us, “You must be our voice. You must tell our story. Our children go to school, and we don’t know if they will come back. We go to church, not knowing if that is the day we will die.”
Here in comfortable Australia, it was sobering to think of our Middle Eastern brethren living from day to day in fear of death or the loss of their family members, or their homes.
Fr. Bazi has started Project 52, aimed at bringing 52 disabled Iraqi children to New Zealand. With our donations and prayers, we can help make his dream a reality.