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Iraq

“A piece of a lost homeland”

Inauguration de la chapelle dédiée à la Vierge Marie, dans le camps du même nom. de nombreuses familles chrétiennes de la Plaine de Ninive s'y retrouvent. Maintenant, elles auront un endroit propice à la prière.
Inauguration of the chapel dedicated to named for the Virgin Mary with many families from the Nineveh Plains present for the celebration.  Now they will have a place to gather and to pray. 

Father Luis Montes is glad. “We have just consecrated a new chapel. It was high time that our refugees got their own small church. This gives them back a piece of the home they have lost. And the people can now go to Mass without risking their lives.”

This Argentinean priest from the Institute of the Incarnate Word has been living in Baghdad for five years – this,  one of the most dangerous cities in the world. “There were 128 bomb attacks in Baghdad in October alone. It is therefore hardly surprising that the people are afraid of leaving their homes to go to church.” And this, he reported, even though the nearest church is not that far away. “However, because of the danger it was important that the church came to them in the camp.”

Since last year, 135 families from the Nineveh plains near Mosul have been living in this refugee camp named for the Virgin Mary where each family, all of them Christian, has been given a caravan. Most belong to the Syrian Catholic church. “The people lost everything last year. When the Islamic State attacked their city of Karakosh, they ran for their lives and left everything behind.”

Over 120,000 Christians have had similar experiences and have been biding their time as refugees in camps primarily in Northern Iraq. Thousands have already left their homelands to go to Australia or other Western countries. “All of our refugees here want to leave. They came to Baghdad because the camps in the North were overcrowded, but primarily because they needed new documents so that they could leave Iraq. Most of them forgot or lost their documents in the chaos of fleeing,” Father Luis said. “None of them still harbour the hope that they will be able to return to their hometowns, which are currently occupied by ISIS. After all, there are no signs of liberation. And furthermore, the people have lost their faith in Iraq and in general in the Arab world,” Father Luis explained. Once, when he asked a woman whether she could imagine a future for herself in what are in fact safe autonomous Kurdish regions in Northern Iraq, she answered, “Yes. Right now it is still safe there. But will it continue to be so tomorrow? Many people from Iraq fled to Syria years ago. And now they have to set out again. No, the best thing for us to do is to leave the Middle East completely.”

A container for a chapel

Visa applications of the families are being processed only slowly. Which means that the people are living in limbo, Father Luis said. “Of course the people are suffering under their situations. Not all have found work here. In particular the fathers of the families feel useless. However, when I look at our people, I am still looking into happier faces than those in the West. The people still have their faith in God. This supports them and fills them with confidence.”

Father Luis has been taking care of the people since their arrival in Baghdad. “I quickly realized that the camp did not have a chapel. And then Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) agreed to help us, which is why we were recently able to consecrate our little container church.”

“I only saw thankful faces looking back at me at the consecration. It shows them that they have not been forgotten, that the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need are thinking of them. Every sign of solidarity is worth a great deal to them in their situation. And we are all one in the Mystical Body of Christ. What we do for each other becomes a blessing for all. The small church is helping the people here. The benefactors, however, and all believers are blessed by the suffering of these confessors of the Christian faith. They are the true treasure of the church and one we have to take care.”

In the future, Holy Mass will be celebrated here on Saturday evenings according to the Syrian Catholic rite. “Of course we are all Catholics. But the Latin rite that I celebrate is in fact very different from what the people are used to. And so priests of the Syrian Catholic church will be called in. However, because there are only two of them in Baghdad and they already hold many services on Sunday, they will celebrate the Sunday liturgy on Saturday evenings. As they do so, I will be taking confession from the faithful.”

The people, Father Luis reported, are very happy about the little chapel. “I only saw thankful faces looking back at me at the consecration. It shows them that they have not been forgotten, that the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need are thinking of them. Every sign of solidarity is worth a great deal to them in their situation. And we are all one in the Mystical Body of Christ. What we do for each other becomes a blessing for all. The small church is helping the people here. The benefactors, however, and all believers are blessed by the suffering of these confessors of the Christian faith. They are the true treasure of the church. And one we have to take care Father Luis Montes is glad. “We have just consecrated a new chapel. It was high time that our refugees got their own small church. This gives them back a piece of the home they have lost. And the people can now go to Mass without risking their lives.”

Enfin, un endroit où l'on pourra vivre le sacrement de réconciliation en toute quiétude. Une chapelle multifonction pour les réfugiés chrétiens de Bagdad.
Finally a quiet place to receive the sacrament of reconciliation.  A multiuse chapel for Christian refugees in Baghdad.

This Argentinean priest from the Institute of the Incarnate Word has been living in Baghdad for five years – this,  one of the most dangerous cities in the world. “There were 128 bomb attacks in Baghdad in October alone. It is therefore hardly surprising that the people are afraid of leaving their homes to go to church.” And this, he reported, even though the nearest church is not that far away. “However, because of the danger it was important that the church came to them in the camp.”

Since last year, 135 families from the Nineveh plains near Mosul have been living in this refugee camp named for the Virgin Mary where each family, all of them Christian, has been given a caravan. Most belong to the Syrian Catholic church. “The people lost everything last year. When the Islamic State attacked their city of Karakosh, they ran for their lives and left everything behind.”

Over 120,000 Christians have had similar experiences and have been biding their time as refugees in camps primarily in Northern Iraq. Thousands have already left their homelands to go to Australia or other Western countries. “All of our refugees here want to leave. They came to Baghdad because the camps in the North were overcrowded, but primarily because they needed new documents so that they could leave Iraq. Most of them forgot or lost their documents in the chaos of fleeing,” Father Luis said. “None of them still harbour the hope that they will be able to return to their hometowns, which are currently occupied by ISIS. After all, there are no signs of liberation. And furthermore, the people have lost their faith in Iraq and in general in the Arab world,” Father Luis explained. Once, when he asked a woman whether she could imagine a future for herself in what are in fact safe autonomous Kurdish regions in Northern Iraq, she answered, “Yes. Right now it is still safe there. But will it continue to be so tomorrow? Many people from Iraq fled to Syria years ago. And now they have to set out again. No, the best thing for us to do is to leave the Middle East completely.”

A container for a chapel

Visa applications of the families are being processed only slowly. Which means that the people are living in limbo, Father Luis said. “Of course the people are suffering under their situations. Not all have found work here. In particular the fathers of the families feel useless. However, when I look at our people, I am still looking into happier faces than those in the West. The people still have their faith in God. This supports them and fills them with confidence.”

Father Luis has been taking care of the people since their arrival in Baghdad. “I quickly realized that the camp did not have a chapel. And then Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) agreed to help us, which is why we were recently able to consecrate our little container church.”

In the future, Holy Mass will be celebrated here on Saturday evenings according to the Syrian Catholic rite. “Of course we are all Catholics. But the Latin rite that I celebrate is in fact very different from what the people are used to. And so priests of the Syrian Catholic church will be called in. However, because there are only two of them in Baghdad and they already hold many services on Sunday, they will celebrate the Sunday liturgy on Saturday evenings. As they do so, I will be taking confession from the faithful.”

The people, Father Luis reported, are very happy about the little chapel. “I only saw thankful faces looking back at me at the consecration. It shows them that they have not been forgotten, that the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need are thinking of them. Every sign of solidarity is worth a great deal to them in their situation. And we are all one in the Mystical Body of Christ. What we do for each other becomes a blessing for all. The small church is helping the people here. The benefactors, however, and all believers are blessed by the suffering of these confessors of the Christian faith. They are the true treasure of the church and one we have to take care.”

With the help of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a chapel for Christian refugees is consecrated in Baghdad.

 

By Oliver Maksan, ACN international   Adapted by, Amanda Bridget Griffin,  ACN Canada

 

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