Father Douglas Al-Bazi saw his church blown up in front of him before crazed jihadis knocked his teeth knocked out with a hammer, broke his nose and back and shot him in the leg.
The Christian population of Iraq has been decimated from two million in 2003 to less than 200,000 today.
Father Al-Bazi was captured and tortured for nine days by al-Qaeda on his way home from a Mass in Iraq in 2006.
He said: “They destroyed my car, they blew up my church on front of me. I got shot by AK-47 in my leg. The bullet is still in my leg. And I had been kidnapped for nine days.
“They smash my nose and my teeth by hammer. And they broke one of my back discs.”
Fatrher Al-Bazi was captured by Islamist militants in a planned raid as he made his way to a friend’s house after taking Mass in November 2006.
Two cars blocked off the road before gun-toting jihadis dragged him from his vehicle, threw him in the boot and sped off.
The fighters – who Father Al-Bazi says were wearing Iraqi government uniforms and had access to state police cars and ambulances – then began their campaign of torture as they attempted to secure a huge ransom payout from the church.
He revealed: “When I arrived they took me outside and I found myself on the ground with a lot of blood on my face. One of them hit me with his knee to my face and back and broke my nose. Then they took me inside and they brought chains and I spent nine days there in this way.
“My cell was a tiny toilet and my head had to rest in the sink. After the second day they used a hammer and they started to break my teeth. There was blood in my mouth and when I spat my teeth and blood came out. One of them told me ‘don’t be worried, you have a lot of teeth and we have all night’.
“They hit me in my shoulder and my back and they broke one of the discs in my back. At one point they said they were going to cut off my head and put the head of a dog in its place then send it to my relatives.
“Even now I never go to my bed without being sure there’s a bottle of water near my bed because they left me without water for days. They were a horrible nine days.”
“I remember as a little girl waiting impatiently for my birthday to arrive. My childhood birthdays were always very happy and special. That is, until my eighth birthday. I was seven years old in 1942 when I was sent with my parents to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. My next three birthdays marked the years of a nightmare.”*
Dr. Auerbacher with her parents and grandparents
We had booked Dr Auerbacher to come to tell her story to attendees of or 2015 Eucharistic Convention. An unfortunate accident meant she was unable to make the trip to New Zealand that year which was disappointing not only for us but also for Dr Auerbacher – she was devastated to say the least.
Bob and Freda Narev from Auckland came to our rescue that year as they told their story as Holocaust survivors; you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium during their presentation.
In 2010 Holocaust survivor Magda Brown shared her story with us – she brought listeners to tears. I mentioned to Dr Auerbacher that with Magda and the Narev’s having told their stories perhaps having her talk to us as well might be a repetition of what she might have to share with us. Dr Auerbacher made the point that all stories are personal and that in her opinion it is most important that all who are willing to speak about their experiences in Concentration Camps should be given the opportunity to do so before there are none left to tell the story. I couldn’t agree with her more – so welcome aboard our 2017 Eucharistic Convention guest list Dr Auerbacher – we are so lucky that you are prepared to come half way around the world to talk to us in little old New Zealand.
Here is how Dr Auerbacher responded to our invitation for her to join us in 2017:
“Dear John: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your invitation. I feel so blessed. I would like to join you in 2017. The people you have selected to speak at your 2017 Eucharistic Convention are amazing, and I would be so honored to join them. It is a once in a lifetime group to celebrate the face of our ever-loving God on us. Much love and blessings, Inge”
Dr. Auerbacher will be sharing her compelling story of her three childhood years spent in the Terezin concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Her vivid memory recounts the story of her as a seven year old who witnessed life’s darkest, most horrific moments. Through dreadful diseases and mass starvation, Dr. Auerbacher amazingly maintains a wonderful, loving persona which instantly draws you into her friendship and vast “adopted” family.
Not letting her torment from childhood hold her back, Dr. Auerbacher has gone on “to being a chemist, world traveler, travel writer, and avid photographer. Inge is also a writer. More than fifty of her poems and numerous articles have been published.” (Auerbacher, 2006, p. 87, inside back cover)
While not wanting to tell you her whole story—since Dr. Auerbacher is the very best at that—we can encourage you to come to hear her present it herself. In 1981, she began traveling and lecturing about the events in her life in an effort to educate people about the Holocaust so history does not repeat itself and to convey her main message of “We shall never forget.”
Complete silence, listening to Dr. Auerbacher’s account of her childhood story is common no matter the audience. Dr. Auerbacher has great rapport with children and loves to answer all their questions, while being sensitive to the fact that they are indeed children.
Many children asked her questions about what she had to eat while in the concentration camp. In her book, I Am A Star, she describes how they stood in long lines waiting for “coffee, a muddy-looking liquid, which always had a horrible taste. Lunch was a watery soup, a potato, and a small portion of turnips or so-called meat sauce; and dinner was soup. By the time the people reached the barrels from which the food was ladled out, they were so hungry and exhausted that they immediately gulped their portion down.”
Some children ask about her birthdays. In I Am Star, she gives account of her eighth, ninth, and tenth birthday gifts while in Terezin: “Birthdays presented a special challenge. One year, I received a potato cake the size of my palm, prepared from a mashed boiled potato with just a hint of sugar in it. Another year Marlene, my doll, was given a new outfit sewn from rags. On my tenth birthday my gift was a poem my mother had written especially for me.” Children walk back to their seats with looks of disbelief and hopefully a greater appreciation for what they have in their own lives.
It is truly a great learning experience to hear all that Dr. Auerbacher has overcome during her younger years. Her story is so compelling that “The Star on My Heart” theatrical play was written by Angela Milora-Hansen to depict Dr. Auerbacher’s life. After attending the play, Ohio Senator Kenny Yuko summed up Dr. Auerbacher’s life: “The Nazis tried to destroy Inge’s life, but they could not break her spirit.” (Facebook post by Senator Kenny Yuko, November 20, 2015).
We encourage you to come to hear Dr Auerbacher and meet her in person in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Here is a recent interview with Dr Auerbacher that you might enjoy
Rosanne Romero is the bestselling author of Amusing Grace, a collection of articles from her well-loved column in Kerygma Magazine, Kitchen Scribbles. In 2015, she launched Amusing Grace, A Second Helping which was nominated for Best Inspirational Book for the Cardinal Sin Book Awards in the same year.
A very active teenager who was into horseback riding and ballet, Rosanne started experiencing strange symptoms in her university days which no doctor then could diagnose.
It was only years later, in 1986 following the birth of her second child that her mysterious symptoms were given a diagnosis– Multiple Sclerosis, a debilitating degenerative disease of the brain and spinal column.
Currently living in Manila, she and her family spent a good chunk of their lives as missionaries in Jakarta, Indonesia from 1995-1998.
She is a sought-after speaker on the subject of Adversity, speaking from her own experiences of God not only in spite of, but mostly because of her illness.
She is a wife to Omy Romero, PhD, a management consultant, mother to two batty daughters, Rinka and Becca. The most recent addition to the hats she wears is “Lola” (grandma) and she wears it proudly. She enjoys babysitting her only (for now, at least!) grandchild, Malaya who is four going on twenty-five.
This week Rosanne Romero, who will be one of the guest speakers at our 2017 Eucharistic Convention, visited that same prison in the Phiippines to give a talk entitled “We are all Prisoners in the War of our Lives” One of Rosanne’s sponsors to bring her to New Zealand in April is Tina Cochrane who told me: “Rosanne was very brave to do a talk to these women, they are hard, tough and criminal women. She was astoundingly accepted and applauded by them all.”
Rosanne Romero giving her talk at the Baguio Women’s Correctional Prison. Don’t miss hearing her talk when she comes to speak at our 2017 Eucharistic Convention over the weekend 21 to 23 April 2017
We are so fortunate to have been able to encourage Mariatu to come half way around the world to share her story with us. At the Eucharistic Convention Dinner on the Saturday evening of our 2017 convention, Mariatu will talk about what happened to her as a young girl in war torn Sierra Leone.
This Dinner will be held at the North Harbour Netball Centre, 44 Northcote Road, Takapuna on Saturday 22nd April 2017 beginning at 7.30pm. Tickets for this event are $65 per head. There will be a cash bar operating also. See the REGISTRATIONS PAGE to book your place.
On Sunday Mariatu will tell us how she has managed since. Mariatu will not speak during the day on Saturday, only at the dinner on Saturday evening. John Porteous
Susan McClelland’s review of the book The Bite of the Mango which is a story of the tragedy suffered by Mariatu Kamara as a 12 year old girl best tells the story of this incredible woman we are so fortunate to have as Keynote speaker at our 2017 Eucharistic Convention Dinner. This is an event not to be missed. There is limited seating so book your place early to avoid the disappointment of being told “sorry – there is no more room available”.. JOHN PORTEOUS
“There are times when silence is louder than any voice” (Kamara)
The Bite of the Mangois a remarkable story of a 12 year old girl named Mariatu Kamara who was living peacefully in a rural village in Sierre Leone with her family and friends before the rebel soldiers invaded her life and destroyed everything she once knew. Her story deals with the most brutal 20th century civil war in Sierra Leone. A coming of age novel, it’s written in a simple first person perspective as her story deals with loss, sadness, letting go, acceptance and ultimately the path to recovery.
Mariatu’s narrative starts when she describes her day to day life before the rebels attacked her village; she describes some beautiful memories she has of her childhood. Her everyday life comes to a halt when there is a rumour that rebel soldiers are making their way to her village. Mariatu and her family decide to flee to another village to seek safe haven form the bloodthirsty rebel soldiers. But Mariatu and some of her family are captured by rebel soldiers as they make their way to the second village. The rebel soldiers kill members of her family in front of her and she knows that she must be next to die. But surprisingly, the rebels decide not to kill her but rather amputate her hands, it is here that Mariatu describes the horrifying and disrobing details as to how her hands were cut off. She pleads with the child soldiers who have been drugged and created into vicious monsters. The following is the dialogue she has with a rebel child soldier:
“If you are going to chop off my hands, please just kill me,” I begged them.
“We’re not going to kill you,” one boy replied. “We want you to go to the president and show him what we did to you. You won’t be able to vote for him now. Ask the president to give you new hands” (Kamara 40).
“As my mind went dark, I remember asking myself: “What is a president?” ( Kamara 41).
The rebel soldiers were amputating people’s hands, legs, arms and ears to display their frustration at the government whom they accused of being corrupt and not helping its people. Thus, by cutting off people’s hands the logic they derived at was that these people would no longer be able to vote for the same president, thus he would be overthrown. This amputation was a sign of their protest against the government.
Mariatu’s horrifying encounter with the rebels is similar to the other 20,000 civilians who have had their body parts amputated. After the rebels amputated her hands she ran away in search of some form of safety and it was while she came to a village that she was offered a mango and she learned of her grim reality- she no longer had hands. She was taken to a hospital by a woman from a village and she spent a lot of time at this hospital. She was then taken to a refugee camp where she reunited with some of her family members. Through this time she constantly fought extreme cases of depression and many times contemplated and attempted to kill herself, but was watched closely by family members. In the refugee camp she joined a theatre troupe, who put on shows to display Sierra Leones problems. It was through this group that she began to deal with her depression. In the refugee group, she met a Canadian journalist who decided to sponsor her to Canada. Mariatu Kamara now lives in Toronto, with a Sierra Leonean family.
Mariatu doesn’t hold any grudges against the rebel soldiers because she has come to understand that like her they too are victims of the war, she says, “At first I felt only anger: I wanted those four boys dead. But the anger made me sick, and over time I saw that taking a life was not the solution. They were kids, like me who’d got caught up in something beyond their control” (Kamara 197). Her text starts with a child like innocent tone which later as her narrative progresses transforms into a mature tone- one of understanding and great insight. Her narrative screams hope, love, understanding, letting go and saying goodbye. Mariatu is a voice of courage and her raw compelling passion is vivid in her narrative. Mariatu is such a brave heroine because she has agreed to share her story with the world which is one of the most heroic things one can do as it is stories and words which make us understand, accept and ultimately it is stories which heal us. Mariatu comes to a realization which is that she that has been given a chance to change the condition of her people. Mariatu says at the end of her book, “Something in me had changed. I knew now that I could look forward and back-without any regrets at the same time” (Kamara 212). This is her road to recovery.
I met Mariatu Kamara two years ago when she came to my high school to promote her book. She is an amazing person, having gone through so many hardships she is able to tell her story and hold herself together with such great poise. Although she is at times shy and concerned with the way people perceive her, it is through telling people her story that she is bring about change. Mariatu says, “I will speak for all the people of Sierra Leone who are not being heard” (Kamara 212).
Mariatu Kamara is a very inspirational person. I believe she is a vessel of hope and optimism. Mariatu is a proof that even in the grimmest times one can change the world for the better with their actions and that is why Mariatu Kamara is a hero, because as Maya Angelou says, “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.” I encourage everyone to read this book!
Mariatu Kamara is UNICEF Canada’s Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict and is also the founder of the Mariatu Foundation, which seeks to provide refuge and healing for women and children in her native Sierra Leone
It is interesting how the Spirit of God has His Hand covering every aspect of this Eucharistic Convention.
In 1994 Bill and Anna Moore attended our very first event with their five year old son Eli. As you will know Bill has dedicated himself to working with us in the years since using his professional skills to promote this convention. Anna has been a tower of strength also; many will remember the beautiful Logo Design she made up for us all those years ago.
As the wheel turns it is gratifying for us to experience contemporary enthusiasm for this event through Bill and Anna’s son Eli, now an adult and an accomplished musician in his own right. Eli recommended a beautiful young singer Alanna-Marie Boudreau as someone who could make a worthwhile contribution to our 2017 Eucharistic Convention. Those of us at the cutting edge of this event agree, as does Bishop Pat – so Alanna’s coming to our 2017 Convention. We are excited about that and we are sure you will be also. Don’t miss this event next April.
Here’s how Eli describes his discovery of Alanna:
I somehow came across her either from a link or a sidebar in the link that my cruise ship agent, based in Canada, posted on her Facebook wall. Through a conversational moment on a business call with her, she asked what my particular engagement was for that January, and it happened to be Hearts Aflame, which I of course explained. And it turns out she’s a very vocal and dedicated Catholic. So there you go.
We will give you more information about Alanna as our promotion for the Eucharistic Convention next April develops, meanwhile we invite you to enjoy this video where Alanna sings: “I’m Sorry”
UPDATED 17 JANUARY 2017
WHY I WROTE A SONG ABOUT PORN Dismantled by Love is one of the heavier songs I’ve written, but it has undoubtedly instigated the greatest volume of response I’ve ever received from friends, fans, and random listeners alike.
I have felt very strongly about pornography for a long time, ever since the first crystallized moment when I myself saw a pornographic poster flash past my eyes at a music shop when I was a little girl…more