I’ve been a bit upset about reports of a Chaldean Catholic Bishop who was kidnapped and murdered in Mosul, whose body was found a few days ago. You see, years ago, while working in Africa as a doc, several of my friends were killed, and so attacks against the innocent have a way of bringing back memories.

The fact that Al Qaeda goes out of it’s way to kill people whose only crime is not belonging to their narrow Sunni sect (including Christians and Shiite Muslims, who they consider heretics) should be a big news story. But Christians have been especially hit hard, as Nina Shea points out:

Forty churches have been bombed, mostly in Baghdad and Mosul. …The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reports that 40 percent of Iraqi refugees are Christian — a staggering number, considering that Christians accounted for only some 4 percent, or 1.5 million, of Iraq’s total pre-invasion population.

The religion angle of the violence should be a big story, especially with Easter so near, yet the WaPost/Newsweek religion forum is discussing a politician who has trouble keeping his pants on.

Get Religion blog points out the paucity of news stories about the killing of the archbishop, and wonders why.

The story in various papers was framed as either just one more episode of violence, or as a “he was a nice guy” obituary type report.

But there is a third way of reporting his death, which is that of a human being who was a martyr.

The ancient word “martyr” has bad connotations, but originally it means “witness”. And the Bishop, who stayed in a dangerous area to shepherd his flock, despite the dangers, made his decision to be a witness long before his kidnapping. How do I know this?

The NYTimes reported:

Gunmen sprayed his car with bullets, killed two bodyguards and shoved the archbishop into the trunk of a car, the church officials said. In the darkness, he managed to pull out his cellphone and call the church, telling officials not to pay a ransom for his release, they said.

“He believed that this money would not be paid for good works and would be used for killing and more evil actions,” the officials said.

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Pastors, doctors, and aid workers often face danger. Been there, done that…and I decided to leave when the danger outweighed the help I could do.

But long before the actual incident, the decision has to be made on how one plans to face violence: Do I stay? Do I go? Do I carry a gun? Do I defend myself? Do I defend my family? If my kidnappping will result in ransom for my safety that will fund murderers to kill others, will I go passively and cooperate, or will I refuse to trade my life for the lives of others?

When kidnappers abducted a Filipino priest, Father Roda, he resisted, for the same reason that Archbishop Rahho did: Because he would not have people be killed with the money that would be used to ransom him.

Those actions are not those of cowards, who see danger and wimp out. The decision to confront violence and refuse to cooperate is usually the result of prayer. The decision is not a snap decision, but one made earlier, facing the hauntings of the night when you wonder: will I be strong? What should I do? Is it worth it? Is there a God? Does anyone really care?

Yes it is in the watches of the night, not the violence at noon, where the true courage is found. For Christians, it is the identification of the Agony of the Garden, where Christ faced a similar choice, that gives one hope.

And for Christians facing danger, sickness, hardship, and sacrifice during this last week of Lent, when a billion Catholic Christians celebrate the death of Christ and the coming Easter resurrection that tells us life will conquer death, and good conquer evil, it is  fitting that we remember Bishop Rahho in our prayers, as a witness to hope and peace.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket, and she writes essays on medical ethics and religion at Boinkie’s blog.

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