UPDATE: In a second note, the friar has indicated that his initial letter contained inaccurate information based on erroneous reports that he had received. He asked websites who have posted his report to remove it. The situation in his location has stabilized, but remains “very dangerous.” He also reports that “all the brothers and sisters” in his city are “OK.”

As you will have read by now, Sunni militants have driven the Iraqi government from the city of Mosul in a sudden and violent offensive. The non-combatant civilian population has been imperiled as a result, among whom are some Dominican friars. One friar living in Mosul, Fr. Najeeb Michaeel, O.P. sent a letter describing the dire situation and asking for prayers. 

Dominicans have been ministering in Iraq (sponsored by the French Provinces) since 1750. The Order’s presence includes both Dominican friars and sisters (Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena).

Fr. Najeeb (Nageeb Mekhail in some renderings) was born in 1955 in Mosul, known to us as the Biblical Nineveh. He was born to Chaldean Christian parents, and is proud of his family’s ancient Christian heritage.

In 1990, after his return to Iraq, he founded the Center for the Digitization of Oriental Manuscripts (Centre Numérique des Manuscrits Orientaux en Irak or CNMO). Over the years Fr. Najeeb has collected hundreds of priceless Christian manuscripts to preserve them, as well as to make digital copies that they may be made widely available. In both work and word, Fr. Najeeb expressed a strong desire to preserve the Christian heritage in Iraq and remained faithful in his service to the Christian population of his country:

I believe it is better for me to stay with my own population, in my own country. I want to be there to help people—especially the handicapped, the homeless, and families who are in trouble—not just with material things but also to help give them direction, power, and faith. We are there supporting each other, walking together, falling together. (From an interview with the Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research)

Despite the tenuous political situation in Iraq, Fr. Najeeb and his confreres elected to remain in the country. They drew their strength from the Christians who had suffered before them:

We take the cross, we take the church, and we hold them. We suffer and die as martyrs. The situation is bad. But we have hope. It is not very easy for us to say that we will be saved, but our faith is here and it is strong. (Ibid)

In an interview with Dominicana from last year, he asked explicitly for prayers for his community and those whom they serve: “We are not protected by anyone, just the prayers . . . we need your prayers . . . I believe in the power of prayers . . . they can change the mind of persons . . . I ask in the name of all Christians in Iraq . . . to pray for us.”

Now more than ever, please remember Fr. Najeeb and all those in danger in Iraq in your prayers. 

Articles by Gregory Pine, O.P.

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