Fr. Thair Sa’adallah was just beginning his homily after having read the Gospel," Fr. Shisha remembered. "When he saw the terrorists enter, he took the Gospel in hand and held it up, saying, 'In the name of the Gospel, leave them and take me. Me for them!"
The attackers quickly killed Fr. Sa’adallah before turning on the rest of the congregation. Witnesses say they aimed particularly to kill the young men of the parish. In addition to the dead, more than 100 people were wounded.
Fr. Wasseem Sabb'ieh was hearing confessions at the time of the attack. He managed to rush two families to safety through a secret door before turning back to face the attackers.
“Before he closed the door, one of the people he helped said to him, ‘Father, leave them and come with us and you will be saved,’” Fr. Shisha recounted. “He answered, ‘I won't leave them like this,’ and he locked the door.”
Fr. Sabb’ieh proceeded directly to the attackers, shouting: “What do you want from us?”
He was killed with a bullet to the head while at the same time one of the attackers detonated a suicide bomb beside him [more].A 3-year old boy named Adam followed the attackers through the church saying to them, "Enough, enough, enough." He begged them, "Please, stop." They killed him, too.
Speaking with Catholic News Agency, Leonardo Cardinal Sandri recalled the famous words of Tertullian that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of faith." Cardinal Sandri said:
This situation in the Church is difficult — being a minority and being the object of terrorist attacks and violent acts even within the very church walls. But, it has also brought with it, on the other hand, the fact that the blood of those who have died will certainly be the seed of hope and life for the future.This attack on what is called Black Sunday was not an isolated incidence:
The attack was one in a long series of attacks against the Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) in Iraq. Since June 26, 2004, when the first church was bombed, Assyrians have been subject to a low grade genocide perpetrated by Shiite and Sunni Muslims, as well as Kurds (report). 70 churches have been bombed since June 2004, 4 since Black Sunday. Thousands of Assyrians have been killed and nearly one half of Assyrians have fled to Syria and Jordan.Following President Obama's recent announcement of the coming withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq, the Assyrian International News Agency warns that "without the U.S. presence as a deterrent, Assyrians face the danger of unchecked Islamic persecution."