Easter Comes to Baghdad

Who would have thought an Iraqi boy, lost in an orphanage in a war torn city would one day be able to start a new life in America?
by Brother Michael Mitchell, LC | Source:
Captain Sunderland moved with his troops through the city of Baghdad. He had been six months in Iraq, witnessing car bombs, gun fights and death. Now, amidst the carnage of war, he was about to uncover an oasis of life. Entering into an old building, his unit came upon a poor orphanage filled with children.

It was run by Missionaries of Charity, the nuns that Mother Theresa founded. Here, the dark reality of years of war was written on the faces of each little orphan. Parentless and hungry, these children came under the mantle of protection provided by a courageous group of Catholic nuns.

In a scene repeated thousands of times since the days of WWI and WWII, the American soldiers did what American soldiers do. The soldiers began digging into their K-Rations and pockets, bringing out candy bars, chewing gum or whatever else they could find. They began passing out the candies, playing with the kids, and posing for pictures.

However, the brief moments of joy ended quickly as the constant bombs and gunshots just outside the orphanage kept the reality of Bagdad very much alive. As Capt. Sunderland left however, he could not lose the image of one boy named Alik. This little boy of nine had crawled over to Capt. Sunderland and called him “Baba”, Arabic for “Daddy”.

Alik was severely handicapped. Cerebral palsy had left him abandoned on the streets of Iraq at age three. The sisters took him in right away, loving him and caring for him when no one else would.

The nun had said that soon he could no longer be taken care of as he was 9 years old and too big for the orphanage. He would have to go to an old hospital where he would basically be put in a room, almost unattended and as Sunderland said, “stare at a wall for the rest of his life.”

Capt. Sunderland did not want that to happen. Throughout the rest of his tour, his unit frequently made stops at the orphanage. The bond between the two grew steadily. By the end of his tour, Alik wanted Capt. Sunderland to be his “Baba”, and Capt. Sunderland wanted to adopt Alik as his son.

However, his hopes were dimmed by the reality of the adoption process. Alik had two major disadvantages: he was handicapped and in a country which did not allow adoptions by foreigners.

Back in the States, Capt. Sunderland spent months sending in petitions and letters of recommendation to the Department of Homeland Security. He had almost lost hope, until he watched the movie “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson. He saw the sacrifice of Christ as a call for him to sacrifice whatever he had to do for Alik. He could not stand the thought of letting Alik down, when Christ had not let him down. He continued the process, hiring an attorney to help out.

Surprisingly, in January a call came in from the government. Alik could come to the states for medical treatment! The first major hurdle had been cleared. Once out of Iraq, the rest of the process would be easier. Capt. Sunderland continued the legal process, and in June, the dream became a reality.

On June 4th, Alik officially became the son of Capt. Sunderland. Now the two live in Wisconsin. Soon, Sunderland hopes to marry his longtime girlfriend and have more children.

Easter Sunday marks the start of our new life in Christ. Thanks to the love and generosity of Christ, we all have eternal life. Little Alik was able to start anew thanks to a generous soldier like Capt. Sunderland.

What better way to live Easter than to imitate the example of Christ, living for others and not just for ourselves!

May we all start anew this Easter! Happy Easter to all, and God bless!

-Information taken from the Associated Press, December 23rd, 2007.
-Names have been changed to conserve the privacy of the parties involved.

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