Mass after massacre
BAGHDAD – The walls were still splattered with blood and pieces of flesh as Iraqi Christians celebrated Mass yesterday in the church that just a week before had been the scene of a horrific bloodbath in which dozens died.
Parishioners holding candles and wearing black gathered in Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation Church, which had been stripped bare of pews and still bore bullet holes along its walls, while overhead the chandeliers and ceilings were stained with blood.
Islamic militants took about 120 parishioners hostage last Sunday in the worst attack against the Christian minority since the 2003 United States-led invasion unleashed a torrent of violence across the country. By the end of the siege, 58 people were dead.
Father Mukhlis, who led the shell-shocked congregation in prayer yesterday, began the Mass by saying they would pray for the victims of the assault and for the attackers alike.
“We will perform a strange kind of prayer, because Christ tells us, ‘Love your enemies’,” Mukhlis said. “We will pray for those who assaulted our church and shed the blood of our martyrs.”
At the Mass, the congregants read verses from the Bible and laid out candles in the shape of a cross on the church floor, along with the names of those who died. At the front of the church were photos of the two priests killed in the attack.
Mukhlis called the two priests martyrs.
At least one of the them was shot execution-style on the church floor.