Heroic Iraqi seminarian saved Blessed Sacrament from ISIS

An Iraqi seminarian has proven his credentials after he heroically saved the Blessed Sacrament from a local Church before Islamic State militants ISIS descended on the village of Karamlesh.

“Until the very last minute, the Pashmerga [the Kurdish armed forces protecting the villages] were telling us it was safe,” the 24-year-old seminarian, Martin Baani, told Aid to the Church in Need.

“But then we heard that they were setting up big guns on St Barbara’s Hill [on the edge of the village] and we knew then the situation had become very dangerous.”

A phone call from a friend informed Martin of the news that the nearby town of Telkaif has fallen to “Da’ash” – the Arabic name for Islamic State and that Karamlesh would be next.

The young seminarian ran to the nearby St Addai’s church, took the Blessed Sacrament and fled the village along with his parish priest and three other clerics.

Martin and his fellow students for the priesthood know that the future is bleak for Christianity in Iraq. A community of 1.5 million Christians before 2003 has dwindled to less than 300,000. And of those who remain, more than a third are displaced. Many, if not most, want a new life in a new country.

Martin, however, is not one of them. “I could easily go,” he explained. “My family now live in California. I already have been given a visa to go to America and visit them. But I want to stay. I don’t want to run away from the problem.”

Martin has already made the choice that marks out the priests who have decided to stay in Iraq; his vocation is to serve the people.

“We must stand up for our rights; we must not be afraid,” he said.