Simon Caldwell recently published an inspiring account of elderly Iraqi Christians in the village of Karamless. (See: Elderly Iraqi Christians defy terrorists, flee to camp H/T Transalpine Redemptorists) When the IS terrorists overran Karamless, on the night of 6-7 August, everyone fled except the elderly who were too weak to run.
The masked terrorists demanded that they convert or be killed by the sword. All of the elderly people said "we prefer to be killed rather than convert." In the event they were ordered to leave the village with only the clothes they were wearing.
This moving and inspiring story of courageous witness to Christ is redolent of the days of ancient Rome. Those who refused to deny their faith yet were not actually martyred yet were called "confessors" because of their stout confession of the faith. Penitents could go to them and ask for a note to say that the confessors had prayed for them; this note or "libellus pacis" could then be taken to the Bishop who could choose to remit all or part of a canonical penance, in view of the power of the prayers of the holy confessors.
There are also many in recent times who have actually been martyred in Iraq because they chose death rather than agree to renounce Christ. They are martyrs because without doubt they were killed propter odium fidei, "on account of hatred of the faith." I hope that a list is kept of their names, along with at least some evidence from witnesses, so that the sacrifice they have made is given due recognition in the life of the Church by their eventual canonisation, and so that people down the ages can remember their heroism and invoke their prayers.
Holy Martyrs and Confessors of Iraq, pray for us.