Monday, November 1, 2010

Death at Mass in Baghdad: My Take

Last evening's Mass at Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad was interrupted. With grenades and suicide vests. Iraqi authorities and witnesses haven't agreed on the body count yet, but it's clear that the priest and several - many - worshipers are dead. Others wounded.

Parishioners at Our Lady of Salvation church are not having a good day.

My take on the situation, after reading a few accounts in the news, is that several folks who are convinced that They (maybe the current Iraqi government and/or those Satanic Americans and/or Egyptian traitors) weren't doing what the folks in question wanted. And so, naturally enough, they killed themselves and took some others with them. It's an all-too-familiar story.

I'm also very sorry that some as-yet-undefined number of people are dead.

As for what 'hidden meaning' there may be in this attack? I don't have a book to sell, telling about end times prophesies that will climax in four to five years, so I don't have much to say on that topic.

There are other ways to get wacky about the killings at a Mass. I've been around folks who might assume it's a CIA plot, or evidence that 'real Americans' just can't trust foreigners.

Tales of ancient stones, hidden secrets, and vast conspiracies can be rousing good stories.

But, although I enjoyed shows like The Invaders and The X Files, I don't take 'vast conspiracies' all that seriously. I've run into folks who apparently do: fanatics aren't renowned for flexibility.

More about what I think yesterday's killings at a Catholic church don't mean, after a (relatively) short look at the news.

Here's part of what the BBC had to say about what happened at Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad:
"Iraq government defends deadly church raid"
BBC (November 1, 2010)

"The gunmen had reportedly demanded the release of jailed al-Qaeda militants

"The Iraqi government says it had no choice but to storm a Catholic church in Baghdad in which gunmen were holding dozens of people hostage.

"Defence Minister Abdul-Qadr al-Obeidi said the gunmen had threatened to kill all their captives.

"At least 52 people were killed as security forces stormed the church, attempting to free the hostages.

"Deputy Interior Minister Maj Gen Hussein Kamal said six attackers also died in the fighting.

"Other sources, however, have said the overall death toll was lower. The number of wounded is put at between 56 and 62 - many of them women.

"Witnesses said the interior of the church resembled a battlefield.

"Throughout Monday mourners have been carrying coffins from the church and loading them on to vehicles taking them to a morgue. Most victims are to be buried on Tuesday....

"...About 100 people were inside Our Lady of Salvation for an evening Mass at the time.

"The blast was followed by gunfire as a group of armed men attacked the Iraq Stock Exchange, police said, and then took over the Catholic church just across the road, clashing with guards and killing some.

"It seems the church was the attackers' real target, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad...."
I'm not surprised that Iraqi leaders say they did the right thing. In a situation like this - given human nature, recent events, and what little I understand of the regional culture - it would be very odd if Iraqi leaders didn't defend their actions.

They may even be right. It sounds like they tried negotiating with the folks with suicide vests and grenades: and weren't able to change their minds.

Like I said, I'm not surprised. I've yet to be around when a fanatic changed his or her mind. It seems to be a low-probability sort of event.

But theoretically possible: which has to do with free will. And that's another topic. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1730-1742, for starters)
Terrorists at Mass: Coincidences Happen, Sometimes
There seems to be a general agreement, in the news, that folks whose armament included suicide vests and grenades first attacked a stock exchange - and then a Catholic church, where Mass just happened to be going on.

The only 'plot' idea I'll admit has some possible merit is that the folks who killed themselves might have intended to hit the worshipers to begin with. They'd have been awfully 'lucky' to pick a random time for their attack - and hit a scheduled Mass. Well, maybe it really was a coincidence.

Conspiracy! The CIA, Yankee Imperialists, and Them Furriners

Someone who was determined to find evidence of Yankee imperialism or sinister foreigners might make something of these paragraphs:
"...'We took a decision to launch a land offensive, and in addition an airdrop, because it was impossible to wait - the terrorists were planning to kill a large number of our brothers, the Christians who were at Mass,' said Mr Obeidi.

" 'So the operation was successfully done. All terrorists were killed. And we now have other suspects in detention.'

"Witnesses say they saw US troops on the ground and US military helicopters hovering above the scene, but the extent of their involvement is not yet clear...."
I'm inclined to see a hopeful sign in that remark: "our brothers, the Christians who were at Mass." I take it as an indication that the current Iraqi government's leaders are at least aware that their reputation depends in part on not treating non-Muslim Iraqis as expendable.

As for wishing that the terrorists could have been talked into chatting about their issues over a cup of tea? Yeah: that would have been nice. But folks like Timothy McVeigh apparently aren't the only ones who can't make a point without killing someone.

Right now, it looks like Iraqi negotiators tried to talk the terrorists out. And that the suicide vest set were determined to kill.

Today's The Solemnity of All Saints, or 'All Souls Day' - and the Pope would have been making a public appearance anyway. As it is, he had something to say about the killings in Baghdad.

And, as often happens, there's more to the stated Catholic view than fits into sound bite theology. I think that's one reason why so many folks claim that the Catholic Church is "vague." and that's yet another topic.

Pope Denounces America! (Wait a Minute - - -)

The Pope had a few words to say about the killings in Baghdad. A fast read of the BBC article might allow someone to assume that the Pope was criticizing the Iraqi security forces. The BBC text isn't quite ambiguous:
"...The militants made contact with authorities by mobile phone, demanding the release of al-Qaeda prisoners and also of a number of Muslim women they insisted were being held prisoner by the Coptic Church in Egypt.

"But the discussions got nowhere, our correspondent says, and the security forces stormed the church.

"Witnesses nearby said they then heard two explosions from inside the church and more shooting. The gunmen reportedly threw grenades and detonated suicide vests.

"Pope Benedict XVI denounced the attack as he gave a holiday blessing on Monday...."
I was curious about what the Holy Father actually said and rummaged around until I found this:
"...The Pope has condemned Sunday's al-Qaeda attack on one of Baghdad's largest Catholic churches, in which scores of worshippers were killed after being caught in the middle of a shoot-out with security forces....

"...'I pray for the victims of this absurd violence, all the more ferocious in that it struck defenceless people united in the house of God, which is a place of love and reconciliation,' Pope Benedict told pilgrims in an All Saints' Day address in St Peter's Square.

" 'Confronted with atrocious episodes of violence which continues to tear apart the populations of the Middle East, I want to renew my call for peace.'..."
There's a bit more here:
"...The pontiff said he wanted to renew his call for peace in the Middle East. 'Confronted with atrocious episodes of violence which continues to tear apart the populations of the Middle East, I want to renew my call for peace,' he said.

" 'This is a gift of God but also the result of efforts of men of good will, of national and international institutions,' he said.

" 'May everyone join forces so that all violence stops.' The pope said he expressed his solidarity with the Christian community in Iraq following the taking of dozens of hostages late on Sunday by Al-Qaeda gunmen in the Sayidat al-Nejat Syriac Christian cathedral, which was then stormed by American and Iraqi forces...."
(Ghana News Link)
I can't argue with the idea that peace is "a gift of God but also the result of efforts of men of good will, of national and international institutions." And, I think it'd be very nice if everybody - including the folks running outfits like Al Qaeda and the Taliban - would decide to stop killing people who don't agree with them.

That would be nice.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of hurting families in Baghdad.

No pressure, but if you're looking for someone to pray for: I don't think it could hurt, putting in a good word for parishioners at Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad.

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