National Catholic Register | Lauretta Brown | February 11, 2020
The haunting faces of Christian refugees surround desecrated religious books and statuary at the new “Cross in Fire” exhibit at Washington’s Museum of the Bible.
And the churches being destroyed, and the Christians being injured and killed, are not museum pieces dating from hundreds of years ago — they are images of what Christians face in the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa today.
The exhibit, on loan from the Hungarian National Museum, was opened Feb. 5 following remarks from U.S. members of Congress and Hungarian officials about the importance of making the world aware of the persecution Christians are still facing in these regions.
The temporary exhibit, on display at the museum until March 2, documents the destruction of ancient Christian communities by terrorist groups with pieces of this destruction, including a badly damaged tabernacle door from the Armenian town of Kessab, Syria, which was under the control of the Islamist terrorist al-Nusra Front in 2014. A statue fragment of Mary’s veil with cracks and bullet holes from the Chapel of St. Addai in Batnaya, Iraq, sits under glass. The piece was donated by the Chaldean Catholic Church, after the destruction wrought by the Islamic State group (ISIS).
Alongside the badly damaged sacred imagery, the exhibit is lined with striking pictures of Christians trying to rebuild their lives after harrowing escapes. On one side of a panel, Rahila Goldwin, 34, stands scarred but smiling. The other side of the panel tells the story of how Fulani militants attacked her village in Kaduna State, Nigeria, killed her 6-year-old child and husband, brutally raped her, caused her to miscarry, as she was six months pregnant, and cut off her right hand. She now lives in a refugee camp with other victims of the violence.
Oumayma Hazem Aziz is featured on another panel with her two sons in a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq. In 2004, her husband was murdered in front of her and her 2-year-old son by two Islamist gunmen in Mosul, Iraq. Her son Nawwar is still afraid to go out on the street by himself because of the attack. She and her sons lived in Qaraqosh, but had to flee ISIS on foot in 2014.