Fr. Douglas al-Bazi loves being a priest. The gentle Chaldean from Baghdad loves the flock he shepherds in Erbil, Iraq. He has witnessed the bombing of his parish church, was shot by Al-Qaeda militants (the AK-47 bullet is still in his leg), and in November 2006 was tortured for nine days by Islamic kidnappers.
They kneed him hard in the face on the first night and broke his nose. They used a hammer to smash out his front teeth, one by one, reminding him with each blow, “You have many teeth left, Father, and we have all night.” They withheld water for five days, and the beatings resulted in broken spinal discs.
What his captors failed to do was break him.
Fr. Bazi has had ample opportunity to join the Christian exodus out of Iraq—and who could blame him? But there he stays. His people know he will never abandon them to the chaotic horror that is daily life for Christians in present-day Iraq. Along with his priestly duties, Fr. Bazi runs Mar Elia, a camp for refugees on the run from ISIS in Kurdish-controlled Erbil.
I have interviewed some exceptional human beings, but Fr. Bazi is in a class all his own. And he is coming to San Diego to give a talk on behalf of Hope for Iraqi Christians (Google them) May 5 at St. Peter’s Cathedral in El Cajon. He has a ready laugh, an intense demeanor, and a great love for the Church. I can’t help but add that Robert De Niro was born to play Fr. Bazi—the resemblance is striking. (Stranger things have happened.)
Written By Patrick Coffin