June 3, 2022
A Martyr In IraqBack to All
by Andrew Doran, Senior Research Fellow
Remembering Father Ragheed Ganni, who was murdered 15 years ago today in Iraq.
“A martyr, a saint, is always made by the design of God, for His love of men, to warn them and to lead them, to bring them back to His ways. A martyrdom is never the design of man; for the true martyr is he who has become the instrument of God, who has lost his will in the will of God, not lost it but found it, for he has found freedom in submission to God. The martyr no longer desires anything for himself, not even the glory of martyrdom.” – T.S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral
On an evening in March 2003, a dinner of Catholic priests, seminarians, and graduate theology students at the Irish College in Rome was interrupted with the announcement that the U.S. ground invasion of Iraq had begun. The few non-Irish present included Shena, an American woman, and Father Ragheed Ganni, a Chaldean priest from Mosul, ancient Nineveh. Both were students at the Angelicum, a Dominican institute founded in the thirteenth century. All eyes turned to the stunned Fr. Ragheed, who said simply, “I have to return home.”
“It was my country at war with his,” says Shena, “which was awful.” Now a mother of six in America, she recalls Father Ragheed as “a lovely, peaceful man.” He would explain with care and patience the complexity of the region to outsiders, especially Americans. “It would have been easy, and perhaps good politics, for him to have remained silent about the Iraq War,” she says nearly two decades later. She recalls how he gently defended the traditional culture of the Muslim-majority Middle East, of which Westerners were frequently critical. It wasn’t his way to debate with brusqueness but to simply hold the ground he had staked out on behalf of his beliefs.