Pope Francis in Greece
“Pope has changed the way people think about Christians”
A Jordanian priest believes: The Pope’s visit to Lesbos sends a message to Arab states to do more for the refugees
The Pope’s solidarity visit to Lesbos last Saturday sent a strong message to the Arab states to do more for refugees, specifically those from Syria and Iraq. Father Khalil Jaar, a priest of the Latin Patriarchate in Jordan, is convinced of this. Speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need, Father Khalil, who has cared for Christian refugees from the Middle East for years, said on Thursday: “With his visit to Lesbos Pope Francis has shown that he is concerned with every single individual. He is not indifferent to the people in need because God is not indifferent to them. Without words he thus sent a strong message to those Arab countries that have to date not taken in any, or hardly any, refugees.” Father Khalil believes that by his example he has shown that a solution of the refugee crisis is possible if everyone pulls together. “Why should Europe alone bear the burden of the refugees? If all join together to help it will make things much easier. And the people in need will then be helped in the best and most efficient way.”
Pope Francis had come to the Greek island last Saturday for a brief visit to meet refugees and declare his solidarity with them. Father Khalil had also taken part in the visit at the invitation of the Greek government and church bodies. “On Lesbos I was able to talk to Syrian refugees after the Pope had met them. They were all Muslims. They told me that the Pope’s caring example had changed the way they think about Christians.
Most of them were amazed in the face of such love and humility. They told me they hadn’t expected that,” Father Khali said.
“I was able to speak briefly to the Holy Father. He told me that I should continue my work for people in need.”
Father Khali rejected the criticism expressed around the Pope’s gesture of taking only Muslim and not Christian refugees in his plane on the return flight in order to grant them refuge in Italy. “The Holy Father also wanted to take Christian refugees from Syria and Iraq. Unfortunately their papers were not ready. They will follow at a later date. And anyway, in the last analysis the crucial factor in a situation of need is not the question of faith. Whether Muslims or Christians: They are all people who are loved by God and need our help.”
Father Khalil expressed thanks for the encouragement shown by Pope Francis. “I was able to speak briefly to the Holy Father. He told me that I should continue my work for people in need. The Pope’s example inspired and encouraged me. I thank Aid to the Church in Need for helping me assist poor people who are fleeing.”
Aid to the Church in Need supports the work of Father Khalil in Marka, Jordan. There he provides accommodation and food for Iraqi Christians who have fled ISIS, as well as Christians from Syria. A total of 600 families are being helpe d in this way. Aid to the Church in Need supports numerous projects of church partners for Christian refugees in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.
By Oliver Maksan, ACN International