Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword

David Alton

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pp. ix-xii

Born in Baghdad in 1972, Father Saad Sirop Hanna was ordained to the priesthood in 2001. Titular bishop of Hirta since 2014, he also serves as the auxiliary bishop of Babylon—a title that, along with remote Christian villages on Iraq’s Plain of Nineveh, reminds us of the area’s strong biblical associations. Christians have lived in this part of the world for close to two thousand years, and many speak the Aramaic language of Jesus.

Bishop Hanna holds a doctorate in philosophy, a degree in aeronautical engineering, speaks four...

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Prologue

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pp. 1-2

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want....”

Time is not a constant tick. Some minutes fall to the ground unnoticed, while others like windswept leaves turn and linger. The car was speeding on, and the world was spinning away beside it.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake....”

My eyes closed and opened, pressed so close to my folded arms in the confines of my space that I saw only...

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Chapter 1. The Sign and the Soccer Field

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pp. 3-12

August 12, 2006. I awoke at the bang outside. In all likelihood, it was not the first that night, only the latest in a series. Each a hand knocking at the door of my dreams until my eyes opened to let it enter.

Standing a little to the side, I peered out cautiously from the window, searching for the source of the commotion. A day would come when stray bullets would break the glass and all but destroy the room in which I was then standing, piercing through...

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Chapter 2. On the day my life would be forever altered

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pp. 13-20

On the fourteenth, a Monday, Father Basil returned to the seminary, and it was good to have some company again. That early evening we ate dinner together and went for a walk, where we spoke of many things and one in particular.

Throughout my travels, whenever I met someone new and told them a little about myself, the second of two facts would always be met with surprise. I say the second because which fact caused the surprise depended on the order. The first was always...

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Chapter 3. I am here and this is real. Be strong.

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pp. 21-30

It was not the alertness that comes with fear but the one that comes with impending danger, and the two are not the same. I was not fearful then, and yet my senses narrowed, attending to little except what I could see fast approaching. Incidents of vi - olence were far from uncommon, and as I had not yet seen any wreckage nor heard a sound, I presumed these cars were on their way to play some role in what would soon be coming. At no point did I even begin to think that they were coming...

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Chapter 4. The Chair Man

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pp. 31-38

By the gentle breeze that eased the heat from fast maturing, I imagined it was a pleasant and beautiful morning when they led me from the house where I had half slept those first two nights.

We needed no car for this brief journey. Just a few steps and twenty-odd meters before a hand pressed down on my shoulder, telling me to sit. They were very sparing in the words they spoke to me. Every sentence boiled down to the few words that mattered, to nothing more than the instruction. It was as though they all...

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Chapter 5. Abu Hamid

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pp. 39-50

They had not spoken to me, my two new companions, and I did not endeavor to begin a conversation. Silently, one of them had moved my hands from behind my back to the front, where he bound them once again. In the midst of all that was happening, it was an unexpected kindness, and I nodded wearily in thanks, though I do not know if he noticed.

As nighttime came, and the darkness of the day mirrored that beneath my veil, a simple thin wool cover was handed to me, and...

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Chapter 6. This is where we end them.

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pp. 51-64

I am not a great believer in the justice of this world. That disbelief, if you will, is one of the lessons that comes when the knowledge gained from experience teaches us to unlearn the expectation of fairness we were born with.

Though I firmly believe in God and heaven, I likewise believe in understanding goodness and the need for it to be its own reward. I have seen too many bad actions propel people to high stations, too much greed feeding on itself in a climb to the kind...

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Chapter 7. A Good Man and the Americans

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pp. 65-78

I missed so many things in those first days and the ones that followed. That is something people do not think about much when they hear stories like mine. When they imagine themselves in a position somewhat like the one I lived. There is so much imposed upon you when the foundations of your life are shaken that your thoughts are consumed with holding the wobbling stones in place, with ducking out of the path of the ones that fall, with curling tight for cover and standing tall to fight, all of that leaves little...

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Chapter 8. Ibn Rushd

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pp. 79-90

Afew hours earlier, he had returned to me my sight, and I had not dared to look at him. As Ali folded the phone and tucked it back in his pocket, I studied his face for clues to the outcome.

“He has to speak to his people,” he said. “Tomorrow we call them, and they will tell us what to do.”

The news was good. My liberation, which had seemed to be becoming a decreasingly likely possibility, had in one phone call become a probable outcome. However, there still lingered that...

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Chapter 9. Kafir

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pp. 91-104

By the evening there was a knock on my door. Two quick raps, not the kind that ask for permission, but those that issue a warning. I had almost drifted off. The room was hot, and I was drenched in sweat and tiredness. Knock, knock. Brief seconds before the door was opened. Hastily I pulled the blindfold down across my eyes, bowing my head so as to avoid inadvertent glances.

The sound of footsteps as two of them entered. “Your hands,” said one, and I extended them, clasped tightly, palms upward. He...

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Chapter 10. The Sniper, the Butcher, and the Dogs

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pp. 105-118

“You!” I heard the voice somewhere outside of my thinking. The afternoon was waning on, and its yellow tint had become the blue and black of early evening. The pain of the morning’s visit had given way to a quiet aching. Sitting on the grassy ground of the orchard, I was feeling both tired and lazy.

“You,” the man said, his voice ringing closer. “What would you do if the Americans come?”

What would I do? It was not so simple a question, and I could sense him waiting for the answer. It is not always...

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Chapter 11. Escape

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pp. 119-130

A devoted man, facing many financial hardships in his life, walked into a church one evening. The mass had long ended, and but for him the place was entirely empty. Clasping his hands tightly together, he knelt down at the altar and began to pray. “My Lord. I am a family man,” he said. “I have always believed in you and have thus lived a life of goodness, in accordance with your teachings. Yet around me people prosper while I continue to struggle. The bills mount up, and I am no longer confident...

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Chapter 12. Beyond Survival

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pp. 131-142

Another trapdoor in time. The humming sound of a small propeller in the water. Sitting there, cold, barely dressed in anything at all, surrounded by guns and people, I heard the noise of the boat approaching, and knew that they had come for me. The escape, the exhaustion, the fear, the attempt to save my life; it wasn’t that it was all for nothing, but that it was far worse. I had disobeyed and been captured. What would come next?

As ever, there was the fear of the Americans watching. That they might be monitoring this stretch...

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Chapter 13. Are you not pleased?

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pp. 143-152

What makes one person wish to inflict pain on another? It is a silly question. Of course there are a myriad of reasons—thousands, millions—and an infinite number of circumstances. But are there? Is it not always through some form or combination of wanting? What if we were to exclude the exercise of violence for survival. What would be left? To seek acceptance. To belong. To break free. To become powerful, influential, rich. To bring about justice in a world that the perpetrator believes is out of...

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Chapter 14. The Highway

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pp. 153-164

A motorcycle. I had heard a variety of sounds from the variety of places where I had been confined. This, however, was the first time I had heard the distinctive sputter of a motorcycle engine. The first time I had pinned down the sound of it. Known what it was. It may not have been crucial, but on this day nothing was unimportant. Four-odd hours had passed since the Chair Man’s visit. From my learning that today was a day of finality. One way or another....

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Chapter 15. The Answer

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pp. 165-170

On some early evenings, I would hop in the car with my sister and we would drive to St. Raphael Hospital in central Baghdad. My father’s nursing shift would be close to ending, and he would make his way to meet us by the door. We would drive through Abu Nawas street, passing by the people who crowded outside its many restaurants and cafes, played dominos, and smoked shishas until the morning hours. And then we too would stop for a brief while. The three of us, drinking fresh cold juice and...

About the Author

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pp. 171-172