I mentioned in a previous post that North America has very few “seeds”, i.e. martyrs. Iraq, however, is full of these beautiful seeds, and has been for 1600 years. Recently, the diocese of Kirkuk celebrated the 1600th anniversary of a mass martyrdom in Iraq:
In 409 AD hundreds of Christians were beheaded for their faith. “Among them” – said Msgr. Sako – “a widow named Scirin-Miskenta, with two children, and general Tahmazgerd”, who carried out the decree of the king, who ordered the massacre. “Seeing their faith, serenity and the trust of the widow” – continued the prelate – “Tahmzgerd converted to Christianity” and as a result was “beheaded later.” Around 470, to commemorate the massacre of Christians, the bishop of Kirkuk Maruta “built a sanctuary” on the hill where “the martyrs were buried”. The “Red Church”, as it is called, unites Christians and Muslims and is now “the graveyard of the Chaldeans”; the relics of martyrs, custodied on the main altar, have always been a destination for the processions of the faithful.
Unfortunately, martyrdoms are not just past events for Iraqi Christians; it is a living reality that is present every day:
The history of violence and persecution against Christians has continued uninterrupted. Abductions, kidnappings, assassinations, fleeing families are the dramatic testimony of a “chain of martyrs” – underlines Msgr. Sako – “that continues. Our country is dotted with shrines to martyrs that people constantly visit, it is a spirituality of martyrdom”. Christians find the strength to “remain faithful” in the “Holy Spirit, but also in the liturgy, especially the Eucharist.” “In every Mass” – added the archbishop of Kirkuk – “we are called upon to make the sacrifice of Christ in our life, in his words; take, break, give … Do this in memory of me: this is the sacred history of Christians and … their journey”.
Pray for our brothers and sisters in Iraq that they might be strengthened by the prayers of the martyrs of their country, and that those beautiful seeds might one day grow into a full garden.