Peace in Iraq… Tribute for Fr. Ragheed

A tribute from a Moslem Friend for Fr Ragheed who was murdered on June 3rd, 2007

In the name of God, the clement, the merciful Ragheed, my brother I beg your forgiveness for not being there with you when those criminals opened fire on you and your brothers, but the bullets that pierced your pure and innocent body have also cut through my heart and my soul. You were one of the first people I met when I arrived in Rome, in the corridors of the Angelicum, where we got to know each other and where we drank our cappuccino together in the university café. What struck me about you was your innocence, your happiness, and your tender and pure smile which never left you. I can only think of you as smiling, happy, full of the joys of life.

Ragheed is for me innocence personified, a wise innocence, who carries in his heart the concerns of his unhappy people. I remember that time in the university canteen, when Iraq was suffering under sanctions and you told me the price of just one cappuccino could have satisfied the needs of an Iraqi family for a whole day, as if you felt somehow guilty for being far away from your people under siege and for not sharing their sufferings…

Here you were back in Iraq, not only to share with your people their destiny of suffering, but also to add your blood to that of the thousands of Iraqis who die every day. I shall never be able to forget the day of your ordination at the Urbaniana… With tears in your eyes, you said: “Today I died to myself”… a very hard phrase.

There and then I did not understand, or perhaps I did not take it as seriously as I should have done… But today, through your martyrdom, I understand that phrase… you died in your soul and your body in order to rise again in your Beloved, your Master, and so that Christ might rise in you, in spite of the sufferings and sadness, in spite of the chaos and madness.

In the name of which god did they kill you? In the name of what paganism did they crucify you?… Did they really know what they were doing? Oh God, we are not asking you for revenge or vengeance, but victory… the victory of what is right over what is false, of life over death, of innocence over perfidy, of blood over the sword… Your blood will not have been shed in vain, dear Ragheed, since it has sanctified the ground of your country… and from heaven your tender smile will continue to brighten the shadows of our nights and herald a better tomorrow…

Forgive me, brother, but when the living meet each other, they think they have all the time in the world to talk, to visit each other and talk about their feelings and thoughts… You had invited me to Iraq… I still dream about visiting your house, your parents, your office… I would never have thought that I would one day visit your grave or that I would have recited the verses of my Qur’an for the repose of your soul….

One day I went with you to buy souvenirs and gifts for your family the day before your first visit to Iraq after a long time away. You spoke to me about your future work: “I would like to govern the people on the basis of love before justice” you told me. Then it was hard for me to imagine you as a “judge” in canon law…

But today your blood and your martyrdom have issued their verdict of fidelity and patience, of hope in the face of all suffering and of survival, despite death, despite nothingness. Brother, your blood has not been shed in vain… and the altar of your church was no sham… You took your role very seriously, right to the end, with a smile nothing can extinguish… ever.

Your brother who loves you Adnan Mokrani Rome, 4th June 2007 Professor of Islamology at the Institute of Cultural and Religious Studies, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome. May we all urge all who read this to pray with these four recent Martyrs for Peace in Iraq and the whole Middle East.