I Saw a Picture of a Beheaded Girl Today

I hold my daughter firmly, hands hooked under arms, fingers pressing tight but not too tight; I hold her out, away from my body, and she smiles at me, with her six little teeth. She must feel weightless, her legs kick and wiggle. I’ve never been in love like this before. She wears cute dresses, with chubby arms and legs that stick out like a plastic doll. Her hair curls and falls in her face, so I blow it away and she giggles. She is the most beautiful thing in my life. She will turn one this month.


Today I saw a photograph of a girl who resembled my daughter, she wore a dress, and was held by a man in the way I hold her, hands under both arms, away from his body, with arms and legs sticking out. But she had no head. She was dead. Beheaded. The man inspected her like an animal, a man in the background looked sick, with his hand over his head. Her severed neck did not show, her shoulders were covered by blood-laced sleeves.


My daughter crawls over to me and pulls herself up on the arm of my chair. She will walk soon. Her mother picks her up and nurses her.


The Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon has issued an urgent plea for help, one among many. Responses are beginning to aid and protect the indigenous Assyrian, Chaldean and Syriac Christians of Iraq and other religious minorities of the region, including Muslims who oppose the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, but it will be too late for this little girl.

Pray for all who are suffering and who have been killed in the Middle East, in Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Israel. Pray for peace, for an end to these and all other atrocities against humanity. Pray for mercy. Pray for the dead, the dying, and those who mourn. Pray for those who will die tonight and tomorrow, from prejudice, heat, dehydration, or retribution. Pray for solidarity across people of good will, of every religious tradition and belief system, especially for the sons and daughters of Abraham to unite against poisonous and graphic hate.


Sofia sleeps now. Kiss your loved ones, don’t ignore the rest.

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About Sam Rocha