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Myriam Achkar, a Christian martyr in the style of Maria Goretti -
For French text
Article written originally in French by Dr. Frederic A. Zakhia - On November 27, 2011

On November 22, 2011, the police were finally able to find the body of the young Lebanese Myriam Achkar, the day after her assassination. November 22, it will be remembered, is the feast of St. Cecilia, a Christian virgin martyr. It was not a mere coincidence that this girl should be martyred on the eve of the feast of St. Cecilia, given the similarity of their virtues. Myriam Achkar, known for her involvement in prayer groups, took her rosary and her gospel book to pray before a statue of the Virgin in the chapel of a small uninhabited monastery which is about twenty minutes walking distance from her home.

This place is private property, lost in the woods. It is private, following the custom of Lebanese families to bequeath part of their property for the construction of a private place of prayer. This also explains the absence of monks in the place. The property was left to the care of a Syrian worker. To arrive there, one has to follow a path through the beautiful and magical forest which separates the villages of Sahel Alma and Harissa. It is a peaceful area located in the mountain of Kesrouan. “The way to Heaven” is the popular name of this footpath that winds through the wood and is taken day and night by large numbers of the pious faithful particularly in May, the month of Mary, for Christians make pilgrimages on foot and go even further than this little monastery until they reach the Marial shrine erected on the summit of Mount Harissa.

Miriam used to take this path. It is an uphill way, with steps. As she walked, did she know she was approaching her death? Nobody walks to their death if their way is one of prayer and penance; on the contrary, they will pass from death to life. Miriam wanted to meet Jesus in prayer, but she walked to her martyrdom, for a final meeting with Jesus, face to face and for ever.

No doubt she had turned off her cell phone to focus on prayer. The guardian of the place had noticed these visits a long time previously and when the hour of darkness had come he approached and assaulted her on the stairs. However, she defended herself. He then struck and slaughtered her for fear that she might reveal his act to the police. Her blood was shed on the Gospel that she had carried. He then hid the body in a bag and threw it into the deep valley. When the police arrived, he offered to help in finding the body, but the presence of blood on his clothing hidden in his room convicted him. When accused, he denied having committed the crime at first, but then finally confessed.

Myriam Achkar thus joined the cortege of virgin martyrs, known in the Catholic Church as "Martyrs of Purity” The name Miriam is simply a variant of the name of Mary. Actually, Miriam, Maria, Marie and Mariette in Hebrew mean “Star of the Sea”. Myriam Achkar died in the manner of St. Maria Goretti. This young Italian girl was stabbed fourteen times by her attacker for having defended herself against him. Taken to the hospital, she died the next day. A priest was present at her side and before giving her Holy Communion, he asked her: "Maria, do you forgive your abuser?" The girl answered: "Yes, for the love of Jesus, I do forgive. I also want him to come with me in Paradise. May God forgive him, for I have already forgiven him” Later, Alessandro Serenelli - the perpetrator of the crime - while serving time in prison, saw in a dream Maria Goretti giving him a lily flower, symbol of purity. Serenelli repented, became a fervent Christian and decided to serve in a monastery for the rest of his life after his release from prison. Later, he attended the canonization of the victim by His Holiness the angelic pastor, the Venerable Pope Pius XII. The Goretti case became thus the first case in the Church where the mother, the perpetrator and the brothers of the candidate all attended the canonization.

In Lebanon, it is obvious that for better security, the police should conduct more patrols to prevent such acts from recurring. The "Path to Heaven" leading to Harissa has become the "Path of Blood," but what I hope for is a conversion of the killer through the intercession of Miriam, "the martyr of purity”, who knew with firm conviction that whoever believes in Jesus-Christ, though dying, shall live.

Myriam shown next to the Virgin Mary during the Mass at Bkerke, Sunday, November 27, 2011

Saint Maria Goretti, "martyr of purity"

Traces of blood on the Gospel carried by the victim

Decree N. 2385 of 17/1/1924 as amended by law N. 76 of 3/4/1999 ( articles 2, 5, 15, 49 and 85 ) lays down as follows: The author of a literary or artistic work, by the very fact of authorship, has absolute right of ownership over the work, without obligation of recourse to formal procedures . The author will himself enjoy the benefit of exploitation of his work, and he possesses exclusive rights of publication and of the reproduction under any form whatsoever. Whether the work in question comes under the public domain or not those persons will be liable to imprisonment for a period of one to three years and to fine of between five and fifty million Lebanese pounds, or to either one of these penalties, who 1-will have appended or caused to be appended a usurped name on a literary or artistic work; 2-will have fraudulently imitated the signature or trademark adopted by an author, with a view to deceiving the buyer; 3-will have counterfeited a literary or artistic work; 4-or will have knowingly sold, received, or put on sale or into circulation a work which is counterfeit or signed with a forged signature. The punishment will be increased in the event of repetition.



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