Priest Tortured by Muslim Terrorists Tells Story of Christian Genocide

Father Douglas Al-Bazi, a Syriac-Catholic priest who was kidnapped and tortured for nine days by Islamic State terrorists in November 2006, pleads for the deliverance of his people.

Father Douglas Al-Bazi, an Iraqi-Catholic parish priest in Erbil, speaks April 28 during the #WeAreN2016 Congress in New York.
Father Douglas Al-Bazi, an Iraqi-Catholic parish priest in Erbil, speaks April 28 during the #WeAreN2016 Congress in New York. (photo: Alejandro Bermudez/CNA)

Most Christians are familiar with the word “confessor” when it refers to an ordained priest who hears one’s confession. However, the original meaning of the word, derived from the Latin confiteri (to confess or profess) was a term used by first-century Christians for a completely different reason. They used it to refer to the stalwart champions of the Church who had confessed Christ publicly in times of persecution and were exiled, imprisoned, tortured or enslaved, but not killed, rather than abandoned their faith in Christ.

Father Douglas Joseph Shimshon Al-Bazi, a Syriac-Catholic priest, is that kind of confessor. He was kidnapped and tortured for nine days by Islamic State terrorists in November 2006. As a result of the torture, he suffered two broken vertebrae. His torturers brutally beat hit him in the face, with a hammer crushing his front teeth and breaking his nose. He also was beaten repeatedly with a hammer on his knees.

The Chaldean Catholic Church raised $170,000 as a ransom for his release and that of his confrere, Father Samy Al Raiys.

Since his release, with the assistance of the greatly put-upon Catholic community of Erbil, Father Al-Bazi sheltered hundreds of Christian refugees on the Mar Elia parish grounds in the predominantly Christian Ankawa neighborhood.

Most of the Christian refugees escaped Qaraqosh as ISIS thundered across Syria and Iraq beginning in August 2014. A great influx of funds, mostly from overseas, have been used to purchase and operate prefabricated housing units, schools, clinics, community kitchen and a library. Mar Elia Refugee Camp and others in Erbil house and feed more than 4,000 Christian families.

Since his release by his torturers, Father Al-Bazi has kept silent about his mistreatment at the hands of Muslim terrorists. But now, upon coming to the United States, he has spoken out against the horrors perpetrated upon the Christian community in Iraq and Syria. In particular, he has publicly urged the world to unite to defeat this genocide.

Father Al-Bazi has partnered with the Knights of Columbus to press Western nations, especially the U.S., to recognize ISIS’ actions against Christians as genocide. He spoke on the subject at an April 28 congress on persecuted Christians, at which time he spoke with the Register briefly. In March, the U.S. House passed H. Con. Res. 75, a non-binding bill, by a vote of 393-0, declaring ISIS’ actions against Christians as “genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” followed by a State Department declaration.

“I don’t speak out now to complain or look for pity, but, rather, to confront the world, which has turned a blind eye to the violence that is meant to wipe us out completely,” explained Father Al-Bazi by phone on May 2.

“Look at what has happened with ISIS to my people. We must discuss this. We cannot ignore it. We must put an end to this before it destroys us,” the priest explained of the atrocities.

“It is obvious to anyone who will look at the facts that ISIS and other Muslim terrorists are specifically targeting and killing Christians. They attack others, certainly, but 80% of their efforts are against us. They want us out or dead.”

According to Aid to the Church in Need, the Christian population of Iraq has fallen from 1.5 million people in 2002 to less than 300,000 today. In five years, at this rate, the Christian community will cease to exist there.

“I was shot at many times, but I survived. My church was attacked and ransacked,” explained Father Al-Bazi of the violence. “We have been robbed. Immediately after the Mass at our church, we are targeted by these criminals.”

“I had expected to die as a martyr at the hands of these people. But the real pain was the idea that everyone had forgotten me and my people’s suffering,” he said. “I thought the world was ignoring us.”

“It’s very important that the world recognize what we have experienced as genocide. It’s important for everyone to recognize the truth of all that ISIS has done to us,” the priest said. “Being too afraid to use this word is succumbing to political correctness and will embolden these terrorists to kill even more Christians.”

“We want to live in peace with our neighbors. We want to worship God in peace. ISIS and other groups must end their torture and killing and be brought to justice. It is only then when we can reconcile, forgive and once again live in harmony.”

Father Al-Bazi admits that the U.S. recognition is a positive step towards ending this horror for Christians in Syria and Iraq and elsewhere; however, he welcomes widening acceptance of the designation of genocide.

“The best response as to how to help Christians being mistreated and killed in predominantly Muslim countries is to force changes in the constitutions of Muslim countries, which have a Christian minority,” he added. “That’s the only hope we have.”

 Father Al-Bazi told the Register that Christians are treated as “third-class citizens” in predominantly Muslim countries.

“They are always looking at us as not real Iraqi citizens. This is even before ISIS ― during Saddam [Hussein]’s regime. They come into our homes, churches and schools. They ask us, ‘What are you doing here? One day you have to leave. You must leave!’ They tell us that we need to abandon our houses, our money — everything. Everything must be given to them. They punish us for not believing in Islam, even though we’ve lived in this, our country, since the time of the apostles. That’s what they feel towards us.”

“I am not against Muslims,” admitted Father Al-Bazi. “But they do not treat Christians fairly in predominantly Muslim countries. We are not on the same level. We are infidels to them.”

“Freedom of religion for non-Muslims simply doesn’t exist in predominantly Muslim countries. The same violent cycles, again and again — such has been the case for 1,400 years. All religious minorities are suffering from sharia [Islamic law],” explained Father Al-Bazi.

“The truth is: We are suffering.”

“Please listen to the victims. Don’t shut them down. This is genocide,” he emphasized.

For his part, Father Al-Bazi discussed the best response in helping Christians: “We have to build the case about genocide ― to convince the world it is actually happening to us.”

He pleaded, “Don’t forget the victims.”



Angelo Stagnaro writes from New York.