skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

Local Iraqi Loses Cousin In Baghdad Church Shooting

Audio

Aired 11/5/10

The Iraqi Chaldean community in San Diego is still trying to come to terms with a massacre at a Catholic church in Baghdad that left more than 50 people dead.

— The Iraqi Chaldean community in San Diego is still trying to come to terms with a massacre at a Catholic church in Baghdad that left more than 50 people dead.

Rafi Romeal Hana lost his cousin in the Baghdad church massacre. Hana's cousin was the priest at the church and was saying Mass when the terrorist attack began.
Enlarge this image

Above: Rafi Romeal Hana lost his cousin in the Baghdad church massacre. Hana's cousin was the priest at the church and was saying Mass when the terrorist attack began.

In El Cajon, Rafi Romeal Hana takes a break from his job at a sandwich shop and sits at a table in the shade. He looks tired and sad. He speaks about his cousin who was living in Baghdad.

“When we were children he was telling me, I want to be a priest, I want to be a priest,” he said.

His cousin, Dhear Abdullah, did go on to be a priest. He was giving Mass at his Baghdad church last Monday when terrorists broke in and began firing. The terrorist group is believed to be associated with Al Qaida. Hana said he was at his own church, St. Peter Chaldean Cathedral in El Cajon when he found out about the shooting.

“The priest here [said], there’s people, terrorist people, who went to the church and killed the priest. And I know all my family, they go there every Sunday. My first cousin is a priest there,” Hana said.

Hana went home and called his mother. She and Hana’s father and brother had stayed home from church that day. At first Hana believed his cousin had just been injured. He later found out that he’d been the first person killed. Hana said the priest told the terrorists they could kill him, but they should let his parishioners live.

“He told them…kill me first, but don’t kill the people. If you want to kill me, kill me,” Hana said. “They killed my cousin… first. And his brother who was there, he went to him to hug him and they killed him.”

Hana said his aunt was also at the service. She threw herself on top of her sons after they’d been shot and then she was shot. She remains in the hospital.

Hana said Christians in Iraq are increasingly being driven from the country. Hana experienced this himself. He immigrated to the United States last year after a terrorist group began threatening him while he was working in a Baghdad hospital.

“They [came] to my home, they threaten me. They told me, 'we’re going to give you three days to make a decision. If you don’t join us we’re going to kill you.' That’s why the next day I took my family and ran away from my home,” he said.

Hana and his family eventually fled to Turkey and then came to the U.S.

Dr. Noori Barka is the Chairman of the Chaldean Council for Public Affairs, which represents 10 organizations in San Diego. He said it’s estimated there were about a million Christians living in Iraq at one point. He said over the last seven years 1,000 have been killed and 600,000 have left the country. Barka said this latest attack is particularly horrific.

“With a car bomb in the street, the car bomb doesn’t differentiate between Christians or Muslims. Christians are killed, Muslims are killed. But when you go into a church and you target people praying, Christians, this is a very different story now,” Barka said.

Barka believes terrorists associate Iraqi Christians with the West and attack them as a way to send a message. Hana said the church massacre was a senseless act. “They went there to pray. They didn’t carry any weapons and the terrorist killed them.”

Comments

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 5, 2010 at 9:39 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

Hana said Christians in Iraq are increasingly being driven from the country"

There's the irony that they blamed all their woes on Saddam yet they enjoyed more religious freedom under his regime than any post-invasion set up.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | November 5, 2010 at 10:25 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

A tragic and shocking story, but not really surprising. This is just another fine example of what Islam offers the world. Whether the location is in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, or the United States, ultimately death, destruction, and oppression occurs. This did not happen under Sadam because he simply did not tolerate it. While that doesn't add much shine to his image, it points out just how volatile Islam can be without an iron fist to keep it in it's place.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | November 5, 2010 at 1:45 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

And pray tell, Mr. Slinsky, whose "iron fist" might you suggest?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | November 5, 2010 at 3:23 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

@Missionaccomplished - Here in America we simply need to stop avoiding the topic of religion as something we can't talk about because we might hurt someone's feelings. We must provoke conversation about the dangers of religious belief and in particular the dangers of Islam. Europe has gotten wise to this, but in America we are this sleeping giant that nurses on the fairy tales of these desert religions. Meanwhile the 20 or so countries where Islam dominates grow more technologically advanced but remain socially, somewhere back in the 15th century. If a person has such a belief that they wouldn't hesitate to walk into a church and murder 50+ people simply for being of another faith what is to stop them when they get a nuke in laying waste to entire cities? The murder and mayhem this religion produces is not occasionally, it is often. And it's the very "moderate" people both within the religion and those outside of it that defend it, that allow the extremists to hi-jack everyone else. The only way to save this country and the world is if more people become agnostic and atheist, or in the very least, hip to the nonsense that is touted as peace and love. That way there will be fewer places for this insanity to incubate, and where it does... if it presents a credible threat, if it cannot live and let live, then the “iron fist” can either be someone we back that takes care of it for us or we deal with it militarily ourselves. Islam either has to truly become “moderate” the way that Christianity has mostly become, or the rest of the free world has no choice. We really have to stop kidding ourselves about this. And I can assure you that these comments will be removed by the end of the day because KPBS is just as spineless as NPR when it comes to addressing this reality. They report the stories, but never dig deep into the "why" of this violence.

( | suggest removal )