"The Jihadist Couldn't Behead Me and Asked: 'Who Are You?'" -- The Witness of Abuna Nirwan
(Jerusalem) Abuna Nirwan is a Franciscan from Iraq. Before his ordination he had completed a medical examination. When he went to the Holy Land in 2004, the Dominican Women of the Rosary gave him a relic and a rosary from their founder, which Father Nirwan always carries with him.
Maria Alfonsina Ghattas and the Dominican Women of the Rosary
The Dominican Women of the Rosary, a missionary order, were founded by Maria Alfonsina Danil Ghattas, a Palestinian Catholic who was born in 1843 in Jerusalem, which was still part of the Ottoman Empire. At a young age, she joined a French religious order, but in 1880, according to a vision, she founded her own order for Arab girls.The missionary community, now spread in eight countries of the Middle East, is the only order founded by the Latin Patriarchy, which was reestablished in 1847 in Jerusalem.
In 2009 Maria Alfonsina Danil Ghattas was beatified in Nazareth's preaching base. On May 17, 2015, she was canonized by Pope Francis. Her liturgical commemoration day is the 25th of March, when she died in 1927 in A Karim near Jerusalem (then the British League of Nations Mandate for Palestine).
When Benedict XVI in 2009, had ordered the investigation for a miracle for the Beatification of the religious, as usual, he ordered the Exhumation of the Corpse. The local bishop instructs a doctor. With the exhumation of the body of Maria Alfonsina Danil Ghattas, Father Nirwan was commissioned because of his training, and he also wrote the medical report.
As the Spanish Opus Dei priest Santiago Quemada, who lived in Jerusalem, reported on his blog Un sacerdote en Tierra Santa (A Priest in the Holy Land), two years before, extraordinary events had taken place. The report by Quemada has now been taken up by various media.
What was reported occurred on July 14, 2007. Abuna Nirwan, who had been working in the Holy Land for three years, paid a visit to his family in Iraq. In Jordan, he got in a taxi, as he explained it in spring 2016 in the sermon in the almost completely Christian Palestinian town of Beit Jalla near Bethlehem.
"It was not then possible to visit my family by plane. That was forbidden. As a means of transport, therefore, only the car could be considered. My intention was to get to Baghdad and from there to Mosul where my parents lived.
The driver was frightened because of the situation that prevailed in Iraq. A family - father and mother with a two-year-old girl - had asked if they could go with me. The taxi driver told me they had asked him to. I had no objection. They were Muslims. The driver was a Christian. He told them that there was room and they could come along. We stopped at a gas station, where another young Muslim asked if he could go to Mossul. Since there was still room, we also took him.
The border between Jordan and Iraq was closed until the morning. As the sun rose, the roadblock opened and the 50 or 60 vehicles were slowly moving in succession.
We continued our journey. After more than an hour we came to a checkpoint. We made our passports ready and stopped. The driver said, 'I am afraid of this group'. It was a military control post. However, as it turned out, an Islamic terrorist organization had killed the soldiers and taken control of the position.
When we were at the checkpoint, our passports were checked while we stayed in the car. Then they left with the passports. A person came back and said to me: 'Father, we need to continue to review. You can come to the office.' "Well," I said, "if we are to come, we'll come." We then walked a quarter of an hour, until we came to a barrack, which had been directed to us.
Once there, two men with hooded faces came out. One had a video camera in one hand and a knife in the other. The other held a Koran in his hand. They came to us, and one of them asked me, 'Father, where are you from?' I said, from Jordan. Then he repeated the question to the driver. Finally, he turned to the young man who traveled with us, grabbed him from behind and killed him with a knife. We were frozen. They tied my hands behind me and said to me, 'Father, we are recording everything for Al Jazeera . Do you want to say something? But no more than a minute.' I said, "No, I just want to pray." They let me pray for a minute.
Then a man pushed me down to my knees and said, 'You are a priest. It is forbidden for your blood to fall to the ground, that would be a sacrilege.' He fetched a bucket and came to cut my throat. I no longer know what prayers I prayed at this moment. I was very afraid. Then I said to Maria Alfonsina: 'If it is so, that the Lord takes me away, I am ready. But if that is not so, I ask you that no one else will die."
The man grabbed my head and guided his knife with the other hand. Then nothing happened. After a moment of silence, he said, 'Who are you?' I replied, 'A religious brother.' Then he said, 'Why can I not manage to set the knife? Who are you?'
Without answering, he left me and said, 'Father, you and all the others, return to the car.'
We did that and were able to continue the journey.
Since that moment, I have ceased to be afraid of death. I know I will die one day, but now I am really aware that this will be when God wants it. Since then, I am no longer afraid of anything and nobody. What happens to me will be done according to God's will. He will give me the strength to take His cross. What counts is faith. God accepts those who believe in Him."
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: Vatican.va/Franziskanerkustodie (Screenshots)
Trans: Tancred email@example.com