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Bomb attack, ISIS invasion can't dampen faith of Iraqi seminarian

By Elise Harris

Rome, Italy, Apr 9, 2015 / 12:23 am (CNA/EWTN News) - Remi Marzina Momica has seen it all: a victim of a 2010 bus attack and among those forced to leave his home when ISIS invaded last year, he says Iraq’s “shattered” Christians need help.

“Christians are shattered like crystal glass all over. (From) being a culture who started the Bible’s Old Testament to a people with no land, no work, no schools, no hospitals…nothing!” Momica told CNA April 4. “Where is the global Christian community?”

Momica is a Syriac Catholic seminarian, currently studying in his final year of theology at the Al-Sharfa Seminary in Harissa, Lebanon.

He formerly studied at St Ephraim’s seminary in the mainly Christian city of Qaraqosh, which is now under the control of ISIS. He left when the militants attacked the city last August, driving out inhabitants who didn’t meet their demands to convert to Islam, pay a hefty tax or face death.

Invited by an acquaintance to spend part of Holy Week and Easter in Rome, the seminarian was in the city just two days, during which he visited Iraqi religious sisters who have a convent in Rome, and participated in Good Friday’s Way of the Cross service with Pope Francis.

Momica told CNA that he comes from an area in Iraq that has “seen the worst forms of persecution.”

While targeted attacks on Christians by extremists have not been uncommon in Iraq, the situation took a ghastly turn for the worst last summer, when the Islamic State, or ISIS, unleashed a bloody campaign in Northern Iraq.

Since then, ISIS has established a caliphate and carried out mass persecutions of minority populations, primarily Christians and Yazidis. They have also published videos showing the beheading of foreign hostages as a warning to countries that have militarily intervened.

Before being forced to leave Qaraqosh last August, Momica and his sister were among the victims wounded in the 2010 bombing of buses transporting mainly Christian college students from the Plains of Nineveh to the University of Mosul, where they were enrolled in classes.

Momica recalled that there were 25 buses carrying an overall total of 1500 students “seeking education, a simple right for human beings,” when two bombs exploded as they passed through a joint checkpoint manned by American, Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers.

The details of the event “will be forever engraved in my mind,” he said, noting that part of his face was deformed by the explosion, which wounded close to 100 students and left the owner of a nearby vehicle repair shop dead.

The seminarian underwent nine surgeries just to reconstruct his nose. His sister’s injuries were “severe,” he said, but less serious than his own.

“The minute of the explosion, one would really feel that the world was coming to an end…a roller coaster of fear, of death, of a bottomless pit,” he recalled. “The only word that we could utter was, ‘Oh Mother Mary, help us!’”

Attacks and bombings continued to take place after the bus incident, Momica noted, drawing specific attention to an attack on a church in Baghdad, which left both priests and most of the congregation dead.

The blood of the “innocent Christians” who died during the church attack “was proof of love for our Lord Jesus, who Himself was persecuted and left to die on the Cross for no other reason than being clean, honest and loving. This is who we (Christians) are,” the seminarian explained.

However, despite the severity and frequency of attacks against Christians in Iraq, Momica said the worst persecution hit when ISIS began their siege last summer, starting in Mosul.

The Christians of Mosul, who had “no intention” of denying Jesus or paying the terrorists the tax they demanded, then fled to Qaraqosh, which was formerly known as the “Christian capital” of Iraq.

Once ISIS attacked Qaraqosh itself August 6 in the middle of the night, the men joined with the Kurdish army, known as the “Peshmerga,” in trying to fight off the well-armed extremists “with any means they had,” which were mostly “primitive” weapons.

As the battle in Qaraqosh unfolded, ISIS militants bombed houses, with one rocket landing in a house and killing two children, 4 and 9 years old, the seminarian recalled, adding that three other children were wounded while standing in front of their homes, and a 30-year-old woman was also killed.

While the former archbishop of the Qaraqosh first urged Christians to stay and fight, he and the city’s priests “found it wiser to leave” as the night went on and ISIS advanced to “the gates” of the city.

“Displacement began. Believe me it was a bad experience. Means of transportation were not available, so most people had to escape on foot, walking on long, rocky, insect infested roads with babies and children,” he recounted.

Momica said that with no food, water or protection from the heat, Christians were fed “with the food of belief, quenched with the love of God and dressed with the arms of Jesus.”

When a large chunk of the 100,000 people who fled Qaraqosh arrived in the Iraqi city of Erbil that night, “the struggle for survival began” as the displaced were left to sleep on the streets, sidewalks, in public parks and in churches since no house would open its doors to them, he recalled.

All this was “only the beginning,” Momica said, explaining that people have been forced to stay in caravans, refugee compounds or half-constructed buildings with no doors or windows for protection.

His own family was among those fleeing that night, including his mother and his brother’s two small children, one of whom was just six days old at the time.

Momica told CNA that he was in Spain at the time of the attack, but got a phone call from his family saying they had tried to pile eight people into his brother’s small car to leave, but turned back out of fear the young baby would die due to the extreme heat.

After waiting for several hours, the seminarian said he finally convinced his family to take the risk and leave. So they piled back into the car and went to Erbil, where they stayed with other families in a church for a while before finding a small house to rent, where they currently live.

After returning from Spain he joined his family in Erbil for one month, where he worked 18 hours a day helping refugees, many of whom became ill due to the heat, before being asked by his bishop to go to Lebanon.

The seminarian said that when his bishop initially asked him, he didn’t want to go, and told the bishop he would prefer to stay and help the refugees. However, after receiving his bishop’s instruction to finish his studies in the seminary, he consented and left Erbil in September.

In addition to Rome, Momica also traveled to Geneva, Madrid, Cordova and France to speak about the situation of Christians in Iraq after being invited by a woman his bishop knows in Cordova.

He is currently visiting his family in Erbil, and will return to Lebanon when classes resume after the Easter holiday.

In reference to the situation of Iraq’s Christians, Momica said that “a culture of God’s word, a people of Jesus, (have been) left in the cold to meet a dark destiny,” and called on the international community to intervene.

Pope Francis also drew attention to the plight of Christians persecuted worldwide yesterday in his first Easter Regia Coeli address, which is a Marian prayer traditionally recited during the liturgical Easter season.

Speaking to the Shalom Community, which sponsored a relay to show solidarity with and raise awareness of persecuted Christians, the Pope said that prayers need to increase.

“Your itinerary on the streets is over, but what must continue on the part of all is the spiritual journey of prayer, intense prayer,” Francis told pilgrims and members of the community present.

“Concrete participation and tangible help in the defense and protection of our brothers and sisters, who are persecuted, exiled, killed, beheaded, for the only reason of being a Christian,” are needed, he said, stressing that martyrs today are more numerous than in the first centuries of Christianity.

Francis closed his appeal by expressing his sincere hope “that the international community does not look the other way.”

Momica also offered prayers that God would give the international community “the clarity of vision to see the truth and help (their) brethren in distress.”

Past Issues

Dec. 9, 2018

Nov. 25, 2018

Nov. 11, 2018

Oct. 28, 2018

Oct. 14, 2018

Sept. 16, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: 2018 Golf Classic; student athletes; physically challenged; Leonard Stegman; Lesson in forgiveness; Sending us on a mission

Sept. 2, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Priest crisis; Scandal; Opioid addictions; Seeds of Suicide; Leightons; St. Anne; Vincke; seminarians; Dominican Sisters; Stewardship Conference; Dead Sea Scrolls; PSR programs; Roe V. Wade

 

August 12, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Prayer and Action; Totus Tuus; Janee Bernal; Diana Ramirez; Heidy Ramirez; Bishop Gilmore honored for 20 years ministry; suicide; contraception and abortion; Dead Sea Scrolls; Humanae Vitae; certification in youth ministry; Chuck Weber; Cathedral rectory chapel; Sister Viola Heichelbech; Adam Urban

July 15, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Immigration Protest/Rally; Faith and Light Fiesta; Seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls; Corpus Christi procession; Prayers for priests; Sisters turn 100; Michael Brungardt; Gerald Vincke; Massacre in San Salvador; Action for Alex 

 

June 3, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Parish Pray for Priestly Vocations; Appeal reaches $10 million; Gangs; Seminarians; Pam Willis; Why I like being a priest; Happy Father's Day; Patricia Lujan; Tyler and Rachel Bennett; Adoption Protection Act.

May 20, 2018
KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Track meet; Beloved Sinners; Benjamin Martin retires; Smiles; Future of Fortune Telling; Hoisington mission; DofI; Getting Equipped; Spring Social; First Communion; Confirmation
KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Track meet; Beloved Sinners; Benjamin Martin retires; Smiles; Future of Fortune Telling; Hoisington mission; DofI; Getting Equipped; Spring Social; First Communion; Confirmation

May 6, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Archbishop Romero; Seeing, Touching, Tasting; Exhortation; Father Patrick Conroy; Happy Mother's Day; A child on your doorstep; Vibrant Ministries Grant; From the heart of a young father; Love Gives Life; Roman Holiday; Smartphone; retirement
Fossil Hunting

 

April 15, 2018

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Easter Vigil; Angelica Village; Colorado woman; The art of anger; Cimarron Couple; Staats; Adoption; 

Father Ultan Murphy anniversary; Coughlan; Spiritual Advisor to Hoodlums; Woman of Courage; Oration contest; Darcy Feist  

 

April 1, 2018

 

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Defending Adoption; Led by the Spirit; Knights; ABC Pregnancy Center;
Memorial of Mary; Homeless; Relics; Down syndrome abortion; Chrism Mass

 

March 18, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: SKYAC; Aleksandr Men; Fasting for Priestly Vocations; Uganda; School for deaf; Rannah Evetts; Oberle; Rachel and Doug Trombley; Oscar Romero; Paul VI; DACA

 

 

March 4, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Fasting for priestly vocations; Father Juan; Fasting and prayer;
Quest Weekend 2018; DACA; With God, anything is possible; Homelessness in our communities; Rhubarb, Kansas;
What's the point of fasting; Rite of Election; same-sex couples

 

Feb. 18, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Catholic Schools Week; Rachel Doll; Ellinwood; Great Bend; Garden City; Ness City; Dodge City; Sister Rita Schwarzenberger; Nigeria; Bishop Hermes; Fasting for Priestly Vocations; World Day for Consecrated Life; 50th Anniversary St. Dominic School; What will life be like in 50 years?

 

 

Feb. 4, 2018

 

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: March for Life; Tracy and Ross Smith; Adoption; Vibrant Ministries; Faith and Light;
Pro-Life; Mortal sin to discard elderly; DACA; Abortion; Dreamers; Human Trafficking

 

Jan. 21, 2018

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Louise Korbe; Anne Frank; Miep Gies; Home Heat; Father Solanus

 

Jan. 7, 2018

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Good news and kingdom living; dreamers; Sister Teresa Orozco; Infant Adoption; Elderly; a moral conundrum; seminarian; feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

Dec. 17, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Celebrate Christmas 'unplugged'; Msgr. Matthew Smith; Klan; Catholic Charities Annual Appeal; Fr. Larry Rosebaugh; A Guadalupe Encounter; Laci and Joe Salazar; A Christmas Wish; Adoption; Confession; Advent; EWTN; Christmas Blues; Tilma; Pittsburgh; PSR

 

Dec. 3, 2017

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: 2017 NCYC; Wheel of Balance; Marita Rother; Stanley Rother; slavery; trafficking; Windthorst water damage; martyred priests; confession; reconciliation; How to go to confession; recipe for codfish cakes; Catholic schools; appeal

 

Nov. 19, 2017

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Saints; Father Kola; Black Elk; Giving Tuesday; velvet Elvis; a Slice of Time; Dani Sandoval; Mexican Village; Father Tim Hickey; New faces at chancery; priests share thoughts on confession; Wheel of Balance

 

Nov. 5, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Matrimony Anniversary Mass, 2017; Riebel; Faith and Light; Scripture Day; Sex in the Bible; Quilt, Mexican Village Story; Finance; Fatima pilgrimage; Fowler church window renovation; Medicare; Crazy Glue


Oct. 15, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Father Francis Jordan; Sister Renee Kirmer; Father Rother beatified; religious liberty; RCIA Kansas; V Encuentro; Bishop Weisenburger; Daughters of Isabella; Bishop Gerber Science Center


Oct. 1, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: De Colores; Rebein; Dreamer; Pies; Kellner; Code Quilts; Sister Crucita; Feezor; Formed.org; Sin and pain

 

 Sept. 17, 2017

 

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Sister Lucy Fidelis; Underground Railroad; Sister Irene Hartman; DACA; new priests; teachers; Volunteer of the Year; Golf Classic; St. Francis Xavier; St. Nicholas Parish Center, Kinsley; seminarians; Knights Lite; Stewardship Day 2017

Sept. 3, 2017

Aug. 13, 2017

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Coronado Cross; Masada; Moody Gardens; Elders; Rother; undocumented children; cages; year of mercy; Kumi; Hollywood makeup artist; New Mexico; refugee women.

July 16, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Summer camp; tithing and almsgiving; Bill Baalmann; Nathan Schaller; Jubilarian Sisters; Sister Hortencia Rodriguez; Sister Petrona Stockemer; Sister Denise Sevart; Convocation of Catholic Leaders; Mother talks about her son entering seminary; Arcoiris; Youth group travels to Colorado Springs; Major Phillip Roth

June 11, 2017 (Updated)

Ordination; Mark Brantley; Jacob Schneider; Father's Day; Thanks, Dad!; Appeal; Sister Mary Martin Weaver; Bishop Maralit; Budget; Trafficked women; Deacon Michael Brungardt; Dead Sea Scrolls; softball; Father Urban retirement; Sister Kravec retirement; Father Mazouch retirement; Authentic Joy; Pris Climate Accord; Jack Schramm; Pieta.

May 28, 2017 (Updated)

 

Grateful Hearts; MSFS Provincial; Reddy; Reif; Opossum; Dead Sea Scrolls; Our Lady of Fatima; Jorge Herrera, Jr.; Cursillo; Kough; First Communion; Confirmation

May 14, 2017

Esteban Hernandez; citizen; Lilly Ann Rein, Amberly Jimenez, Mother's Day; peacock; Quattrocchi; President Kennedy; Teen Moms; Junior High Youth Rally; Encounter With God's Call; granny/nanny; seniors' contributions; tornado anniversary; harvest; healthcare; Mr. Brown; Store-bought teeth; Louis and Zelie Martin; Father John Sullivan; Irish priest whose prayers could heal; Mexican beauty queen; Esmaralda Gonzalez; religious life

April 30, 2017

   KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Easter Vigil; bully; TEC; Father Marvin Reif; Bet'sie; What makes a hero?; St. Mary of the Plains; tornado

Easter, 2017

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: SKYAC; Honorable courtship; footsteps of migrants; CHRISM Mass 2017; honoring priests; Encuentro Cross blessed; Daughters of Isabella State Convention; Fatima pilgrim statue; Mary Sharon Moore interview; Senate advances pro-life measures; love must be at the core of family life; Father John Forkuoh's car story; Confirmations; Sisters of Concordia; CNN hero Father Khalil Jaar

March 26, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: From the heart; kidney; Rother; Friar Carmelo; Schnauzer; Lauren Seachris; Lauren's Treat; fire; Guatemala; immigration; Lenten Regulations 1888; Hot Cross Buns; budget; Trump; Forkuoh; Seiwert; South Sudan; hot ashes

March 12, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Refugees; immigrants; Gilbert Herrman; When you give alms'; Lent; Call to Continuing Conversion, Rite of Election; Charell and Jeremy Owings; adoption; Our Growing Church; Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia; water; creation; Sudan; Darlow Lampe

Feb 26, 2017

 KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Night to shine; Immigration; immigrants; Knights of Columbus; Pete Gomez; this foreign mission; Creole; Robin Doll; Eagle Scout; Quest

Feb 12, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Catholic Schools Week; March for Life; Pro-life; Executive Order; Secular Franciscan Order; teachers; Down Syndrome; Eagle Scout; Bronze Pelican

Jan. 29, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Thank you, religious; SEEK 2017; homeless man to priest; Fourth Sunday; Secret Service to Sacred Heart; Dr. Gerard Brungardt; Martin Luther King; 110 year old nun; Toddler miracle; Letter from undocumented immigrant; health care; immigration

Jan. 15, 2017

KEYWORDS, PHRASES: Mary helps us share; Tighe donates home to Birthright; Pro-life billboard; Theobald Hattrup; Helen and Steve Eck; Pearl Harbor; Reigning Grace

Dec. 18, 2017

KEYWORDS: Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 2016; Pope Francis Christmas schedule; 2016 high school youth rally; Aerospace engineer; Father Stanley Rother; Radio station; Dying girl's letter; Scout nominations; 12 days of Christmas

Dec. 4, 2016

KEYWORDS: Vocations Day; Pope Advent advice; Ex-prostitute; Spearville mission; Pilgrims v. Zombies; Face of God; Mission bazaar; Ness City fall festival; Rural health care; Archbishop Gomez; Bishops congratulate Trump

Nov. 20, 2016

Nov. 6, 2016

Oct. 23, 2016

Oct. 9, 2016


Sept. 25, 2016


Sept. 11, 2016

 
Aug. 7, 2016

July 10, 2016

June 12, 2016

May 29, 2016

May 8, 2016


 April 24, 2016

 April 10, 2016

 March 27, 2016

March 13, 2016

Feb. 28, 2016

 

Feb. 14, 2016


Jan. 31 , 2016

Jan. 17, 2016

Dec. 20, 2015

Dec. 6, 2015

Nov. 15, 2015

Nov. 1, 2015

Oct. 18, 2015

Oct. 4, 2015

Sept. 20, 2015

Sept. 6, 2015

August 9, 2015

July 12, 2015

Jun 14, 2015

May 17, 2015

May 3, 2015

April 19, 2015

Easter, 2015

 

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