Most of us know who Mother Teresa is, but do you know who No. 5061 is? I didn’t until I was scanning through the online editions of several newspapers after a long day at work, and neither did his family until a recent Sunday when his brother Hamid identified the body of 33-year-old Muhammad Jassem Bouhan al-Izzawi from a photo at a Baghdad morgue. (See NYT article).
He had been searching for him for five years, since July 1, 2005, at 5 a.m. when men dressed as police officers clanged their guns on the doors of Muhammad’s house and dragged a barely dressed Muhammad into a truck. They drove off, “leaving his 2-month-old daughter, Aisha, and his wife and mother, who cried for help as the headlights disappeared into the dawn.”
A police report from July 3, 2005, uncovered by Hamid prior to his trip to the morgue told him his brother’s body was discovered with 10 other bodies that had “their hands bound from behind, their eyes blindfolded and their mouths gagged. The bodies bore signs of torture.” Eventually they found Muhammad’s grave.
God only knows the kind of suffering and grief that have pierced his mother and wife or his brother or the countless other people who had known and loved him – and now mourned him. How do we approach the suffering of people who are just numbers to us or whose lives seems so removed from our own?
Prior to finding this story I was catching up on a favorite “churchy” blog of mine, Whispers in the Loggia, and discovered that we have just begun a year-long centenary celebration marking the life of Blessed Teresa, known to most as Mother Teresa. I was struck by the beginning of Rocco Palmo’s quote of Blessed Teresa’s lecture given when she received the Nobel Prize:
“Today there is so much suffering, and I feel that the passion of Christ is being relived all over again. Are we there to share that passion, to share that suffering of people?”
I don’t know any more about Muhammad than the portion of his story I read tonight, but I can’t help fusing a vision of the suffering he went through, the suffering that his family is going through and the suffering of myriad other people, from all sides of a brutal war, into a vision of the passion of the Christ.
Blessed Teresa, how are we called to share the suffering of people unknown and know to us, including Muhammad?