Saad Sirop Hanna, with Edward S. Aris
Foreword by David Alton
How do we respond in the face of evil, especially to those who inflict grave evil upon us? Abducted in Iraq is Bishop Saad Sirop Hanna’s firsthand account of his abduction in 2006 by a militant group associated with al-Qaeda. As a young parish priest and visiting lecturer on philosophy at Babel College near Baghdad, Fr. Hanna was kidnapped after celebrating Mass on August 15 and released on September 11. Hanna’s plight attracted international attention after Pope Benedict XVI requested prayers for the safe return of the young priest.
The book charts Hanna’s twenty-eight days in captivity as he struggles through threats, torture, and the unknown to piece together what little information he has in a bid for survival. Throughout this time, he questions what a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq means for the future, as well as the events that lead the country on that path. Through extreme hardship, the young priest gains a greater knowledge both of his faith and of remaining true to himself.
This riveting narrative reflects the experience of persecuted Christians all over the world today, especially the plight of Iraqi Christians who continue to live and hold their faith against tremendous odds, and it sheds light on the complex political and spiritual situation that Catholics face in predominantly non-Christian nations. More than just a personal story, Abducted in Iraq is also Hanna’s portrayal of what has happened to the ancient churches of one of the oldest Christian communities and how the West’s reaction and inaction have affected Iraqi Christians. More than just a story of one man, it is also the story of a suffering and persecuted people. As such, this book will be of great interest to those wanting to learn more about the violence in the Middle East and the threats facing Christians there, as well as all those seeking to strengthen their own faith.
“Father Hanna’s gripping and gut-wrenching descent into the terrors of violent Islamic extremism is masterfully crafted, spell-binding, and deeply disturbing. Confronted with intense pressure to abandon his faith, this courageous young Iraqi priest not only refuses to do so but also refuses to succumb to hatred of his oppressors. Above all else, this is an inspirational witness to the power of Christian hope and love in the face of unspeakable evil.” — Kent R. Hill, executive director, Religious Freedom Institute
“Abducted in Iraq is Saad Hanna’s riveting account of his captivity in Iraq among Muslim extremists. The story Hanna tells will leave readers breathless. He recounts how his captors seized him from his car in Baghdad, tortured him, and repeatedly demanded that he convert to Islam. Through it all Hanna held courageously to his Christian faith and refused stubbornly to hate his captors. By the end of Abducted in Iraq readers will not only be inspired, they will also gain a new sense of compassion for those who suffer from religious violence.” — Gabriel Said Reynolds, author of The Emergence of Islam: Classical Traditions in Contemporary Perspective
“The nearly month-long ordeal in 2006 of Bishop Saad Sirop Hanna, as he was brutalized by jihadists and was confronted with the constant threat of being killed, prefigured the plight of many thousands of the bishop’s fellow Chaldean faithful and members of other ancient Christian communities as ISIS conquered northern Iraq in the summer of 2014. The bishop’s suffering, survival, and ultimately enduring faith make for a heartrending read; it is also a call to action for the world community to ensure that, in the post-ISIS world, Iraq’s Christians—and Christians throughout the Middle East—will be afforded full religious freedom and security.” — George J. Marlin, author of Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy
“Bishop Hanna holds a doctorate in philosophy, a degree in aeronautical engineering, speaks four languages, and has published learned articles. However, his scholarship and learning are not the reasons why Abducted in Iraq: A Priest in Baghdad will be among your prized possessions. This beautiful book is the captivating story of a faithful Iraqi priest who was abducted and tortured, and who resolutely refused to betray his beliefs or to hate his captors. This is Father Hanna’s personal story—autobiographical, but interwoven with insights into what has happened to the ancient churches of this benighted region and how we in the West, having accelerated the assault on Iraq’s Christian community, have done precious little since then to protect Iraqi Christians or to champion their cause.” — David Alton, from the foreword
“It is a fact of journalism that distant tragedies are not taken seriously unless a face, a personal experience, makes it real. This is such a personal story, and told perhaps better than any trained journalist might.” — Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus
“Writing with journalist Aris, Catholic priest Hanna opens up about the 27 days he was held captive in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2006. His first-person account begins with being waylaid while driving down a Baghdad street. He was quickly blindfolded, handcuffed, and taken captive while his abductors negotiated a ransom and tried, sometimes with violent beatings, to convert him to Islam. His plight garnered international attention when Pope Benedict XVI publicly appealed for his release. . . . The book is poignant in describing and lamenting the destruction of Iraqi culture.” — Publishers Weekly
“Bishop Hanna’s story is one of self-discovery, deepening faith, and an eye-opening reality to the plight of numerous Christians in the Middle East. . . . the situation of these Christians is often ignored and marginalized for political reasons. We are attesting to the potential end of one of the most ancient populations and religious traditions in the world. The Apostolic tradition of the Church of the East, Chaldean and Assyrian tradition, and its theological and spiritual richness is at risk. The world needs to see and to listen to the voice of this suffering church.” — Word on Fire Blog
“The world is a more dangerous place for Christians and for those who want to live out their faith peacefully. Despite facing death, Bishop Hanna will continue to preach love and serve the country that he loves. You can call his journey one of tenacity or perseverance and yet, it also mirrors the power of Christ in a way that is everlasting to the rest of the world.” —BeliefNet.com
“’Kafir! Kafir!’ That was the word, meaning infidel or believer, the Muslim extremists shouted as they repeatedly beat Father Hanna in a futile attempt to force him to convert to their faith. In his memoir, Abducted in Iraq, Father Hanna provides a moving account of his treatment in captivity by this group from August 15, 2006, to his release on September 11. . . . As he refused to relent under ever more torturous treatment, Hanna became convinced that his ordeal could end only with his death." — Catholic Library World
“. . . a gripping account by Father Saad Sirop Hanna, now auxiliary bishop of the Chaldean Patriarchate of Baghdad, of his 27-day abduction in 2006 by jihadi militants. . . . this riveting memoir is an ideal book to read during the Knights of Columbus co-sponsored Week of Awareness for Persecuted Christians, Nov. 26–Dec. 2.” — Columbia Magazine
“For anyone exasperated by the ongoing violence in the Middle East, or wondering how best to respond to it, Bishop Hanna’s well-told account of his kidnap makes for a gripping and challenging read.” — World Watch Monitor
“Bishop Hanna varies the pace well between the rapid, intrusive violence and long periods of isolation and reflection, in which his deep spirituality comes to the fore. His recollections are philosophical, elegantly expressed, and colored not with bitterness but with incomprehension and an unselfconscious courage. He humanizes his captors as much as he can manage.” — Sight Magazine
“Bishop Saad Sirop Hanna, head of the Chaldean Christian community in Baghdad, was abducted by Muslim extremists in 2006, and held and tortured for 28 days. He is a philosopher, and this memoir clearly reflects that aspect of a man who grew up living side-by-side with Muslims, when nobody thought that that was anything other than normal. So the destruction of Iraq and the decimation of the Christian community grieves him utterly. . . . He urges looking beyond ethnicity, creed, culture, and religion; connecting on the level of shared humanity.” — Church Times