Iraq: “We are still afraid”
By Eva-Maria Kolmann
During a visit to the international headquarters of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Syrian Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Mouche, deplored that Christians were still afraid of returning to their villages, despite the liberation of the Nineveh plains. He said that it was “unclear” who would ensure their safety in the liberated villages and that he felt “betrayed” by the government.
(The Syrian Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Mouche offering Mass in the burnt out remains of a church in Qaraqosh after it was liberated from ISIS forces © Aid to the Church in Need)
Despite the fact that ISIS is “finished” militarily and has been driven out of the region, the ideology of the fanatic Muslims remains, the archbishop explained. Thus, in October, two days after the central Iraqi government had passed a ban on alcohol for the entire country, a Christian who had been dealing in alcohol was murdered by fanatic Muslims in Qaraqosh. The bishop said that the Christians were also “shocked” to discover that about 75 per cent of the houses in the liberated Christian villages had been burnt down by local inhabitants. “Why did these people, with whom we were associated, do this? We ask ourselves whether this was their way of telling us that they will burn us to death if we return,” the archbishop said. “We are afraid that we will have to continue to live with these people. We impatiently awaited liberation, and many wanted to return immediately, but there first need to be guarantees for our safety.”
(A headless statue of the Virgin Mary in a Church looted and burned by ISIS forces in 2014 © Aid to the Church in Need)
The archbishop, however, also emphasised that it is a “great joy” that, now after liberation, there is at least the possibility that Christians could return to the Nineveh plains and “continue to bear witness for Christ in our own country.”
Archbishop Mouche thanked all benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need and asked them for continued support. “We ask that these people keep showing solidarity with us and support us with their prayers and material aid so that we may continue to bear witness.”
During the Advent and Christmas season, the ACN is asking for support for Christian minorities in need in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon to make it possible for them to remain in their homelands. Aid to the Church in Need has set up a homepage to provide information about what is happening to Christians in Syria and Iraq, present successful projects and issue invitations to prayer and requests for donations: www.australia.acninternational.org
This initiative of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), is a concrete reaction and answer to the joint declaration of Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. During a meeting in Havana in February of this year, they had confirmed their desire and intention to have Catholic and Orthodox Christians speak out in a united voice for peace in Syria and for persecuted Christians. The dramatic situation in the Middle East was one of the most important reasons for this historic meeting.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
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