Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Flavianus Michael Malke

On August 29, Pope Francis beatified Flavyānus Mikhayil Melkī. Blessed Flavyanus was a Syriac Catholic bishop in what is now Turkey who was martyred in 1915. In those days, of course, the ruling power in the area was the Ottoman Empire, and it was a time when the Ottomans were cracking down rather severely on Eastern Catholics. In the 1895 Massacres of Diyarbakir, his mother was killed and his church and house burned to the ground. The primary focus of the massacres was to root out Armenian Christians, a small group of whom had rebelled against local tax collectors; but the pogrom quickly spread to attacks on their Syriac and Assyrian Christian neighbors. Some estimate that over 20,000 Syriac and Assyrian Christians were murdered in the massacres. Things only got worse from there; it was the beginning in earnest of the Armenian Genocide and the Assyrian Genocide throughout large portions of the Ottoman Empire.

In the summer of 1915 the persecution had begun to reach its height. Melki heard rumors that there would be a major crackdown in Gazarta, where he was bishop. He had been out and about helping various villages and churches, but on hearing the rumors he returned to Gazarta and refused to leave, despite the fact that a number of local Muslim leaders with whom he had good relations pleaded for him to do so. He and the Chaldean Catholic bishop, Philippe-Jacques Abraham, were arrested. On August 28, they were both given the choice to convert to Islam or be executed for their presumed treasons against the Ottoman Empire; when Abraham refused, he was killed. When Melki refused, he was beaten unconscious and then beheaded.

Michael Malke

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