lunedì, dicembre 18, 2017


Conference on Intercultural and interreligious dialogue

The Chaldean Archbishop of Basra and the south, Habib Jajou contributed in the Conference on Intercultural and interreligious dialogue held in Zgreb, Croatia between Thursday and Friday, 7-8 December on behalf of HB Mar Louis Raphael Sako. The reason of holding the Conference was to celebrate the 20th Annual EPP Group Intercultural Dialogue with Churches and Religious Institutions. The title was: From understanding to cooperation, promoting interfaith encounters to meet global challenges. The president of Croatia, the Prime Minister, Memberes from the European Parlament, religious leaders, and Concerned Christian organizations have contributed in the conference. 
The Archbishop spoke about a number of points:
First, ‘promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogue and encouraging cultural diversity as a sign of maturity in the understanding of the modern social life to create a peaceful and stable society. The dialogue is influential to battle extremism and proclaim the human values where religions and cultures share many mutual factors.’
Second, ‘stakeholders are called upon to record the previous examples of dialogues and update then upgrade the existing initiatives and tools.’
Third, ‘states, religions and cultural institutions are responsible for improving ways to promote dialogues on different levels, to encourage cooperation between different charity and solidarity organizations for social cohesion and stability.’
Fourth, ‘every country is called upon to establish a council to organize the dialogue projects for better results. This will encourage interest to open new ways for the human family to respect diversities. It will help them to resolve many dilemmas: violent, terrorism and extremism.’
Fifth, ‘we face the loss of local cultures due to mass immigration, consequently, training men and women from different communities is very significant to create a competence that is capable of contacting people from different ethnicities.’
In ending his speech, Archbishop Habib Jajou called for more action for Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue because the World is facing countless challenges and numerous opportunities at the same time.

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UN Migration Agency Publishes Assessment on Displacement and Returns in Iraq

Erbil – As the Iraqi Government celebrated its final victory over ISIL this week, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, released a new study, which shows that 90 per cent of displaced Iraqis are determined to return home. This is similar to the long-term intentions recorded in 2016. 
More than 1.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) have returned to their places of origin so far in 2017. In total since the start of the crisis in 2014, IOM estimates that more than 2.8 million displaced Iraqis have returned, while more than 2.9 million people remain displaced. 
The IOM study, Integrated Location Assessment (ILA) analyzes both displacement and return movements of conflict-affected people across Iraq. Approximately 2.1 million displaced persons and more than 1.6 million returnees, based in 3,583 locations across Iraq, have been covered in the assessment, which was carried out between March and May 2017.  
Only in Basrah and Najaf did families report that they consider integrating into the local community, where they are displaced.  
According to the findings, Anbar was the single governorate where most returns took place in both 2016 and 2017, followed by Ninewa in 2017.  
Among the main findings, this study identifies that residential and infrastructure damage is widespread. Nearly one third of returnees are reported to have returned to houses that have suffered significant damage, and 60 per cent to moderately damaged residences. Regarding infrastructure, most damage appears to affect roads, followed by the public power grid and water networks.  
The share of displaced Iraqis who have settled in critical shelters and returnees unable to return to their habitual residence seems to have slightly increased compared to 2016. This might be related to the lack of legal documentation for houses, land and property which was reported among the top three challenges in nearly one out of four locations. 
Difficulties in returning to the habitual residence may also be related to the fact that in some cases, those who remain in displacement are among the poorest and most vulnerable families, strained by long years on the move. In locations where there are female-headed households, and particularly households headed by minor females, “lack of money” is consistently among the top three obstacles to return. 
Long-term concerns over economic security persist with 80 per cent of displaced people and 63 per cent of returnees cited access to employment as one of their top three needs.  
However, the main obstacle to return reported by the displaced population remained lack of security in the place or origin, whether due to ongoing conflict, presence of UXO, landmines and militias. 
The ILA Part I: Thematic Overview, the ILA Part II: Governorate Profiles and Questionnaire can be downloaded on the DTM ILA II portal page.

One of the passages of the report about Iraqi Christian Population:
Just like in 2016, while Arab Sunni and Kurdish Sunni Muslims have mostlly returned home, Turkmen Shia and Sunni Muslims, Yazidis, Christians and Shabak Shias remain displaced across Iraq.
(note by Baghdadhope. Thematic Overview pag 15)

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Half of Iraqi Refugees Return Home

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced on Saturday that nearly half of the Iraqis, who were displaced by the battle against ISIS, have returned home.
It said in a report released earlier this week that the number of people who have returned home since the beginning of the crisis in November 2014 has reached 2.27 million. Some 2.88 million remain displaced.
IOM spokeswoman Sandra Black told Agence France Presse that this was the first time that the number of people returning is equal to the number still displaced.
Should the return rate continue like this, then the number of returnees will exceed the number of the displaced, she added.
ISIS had seized large swathes of Iraqi territory in an offensive in mid 2014. Iraqi forces managed over the past three years to recapture much of the land.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced last week his country’s victory over the terrorist organization.
IOM said that the majority of the returnees were recorded in the Anbar and Ninevh provinces. Most of them reported that their houses were severely damaged in the battles. Some 60 percent reported moderate damage, it revealed. Locals who do not have property documents have faced the greatest difficulties in returning to their homes.
The main obstacles hindering the return of the displaced are lingering skirmishes and unexploded mines.
The majority who have returned are from the Sunni and Kurdish populations, not Sunni Turkmen, Shi’ites, Yazidis, Christians and the Shabak people.

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In Jordan, Iraqi Christians dream of fresh start abroad

By The Times of Israel
Kamal Taha

Inside a church in Jordan, a displaced Iraqi Christian mother dreams of a brighter future for her children far from the war-torn country they were forced to flee. 
She is among thousands of Iraqi Christians from the northern town of Bartalla to have sought refuge in neighbouring Jordan after running for their lives from jihadists.
"We've lost everything. Our houses have been pillaged and destroyed. There's nothing left over there to make it worth returning," said Walaa Louis, 40.
When the Islamic State group swept across northern Iraq in 2014 they told Christians to convert, pay tax, leave or die. Tens of thousands chose to flee.
Baghdad has announced final victory over the extremist group, but Louis says she will not return to a country where she does not feel safe.
She, her husband and three children -- now aged 16, 15 and eight -- fled Bartalla in August 2014, trekking for hours in the dead of night to the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Arbil.
They endured months of struggle in Arbil, including sleeping rough in parks or inside churches.
Iraqi forces retook Bartalla from IS earlier this year, but when Louis returned to her hometown in August she found nothing but a home in cinders.
She and her husband decided to head to Jordan, where they filed with the UN refugee agency for resettlement "in any safe country" to ensure her children's future.
But as Christmas approaches, Louis said her family has received no financial aid and their money is running out.
"We've spent everything we had," said Louis, who suffers from a heart condition.
"I can't even see a doctor or buy Christmas presents for my children," she said.
For now, her youngest son is among some 200 children aged 6 to 14 attending night classes at the Marka Latin Church in the Jordanian capital Amman.

- 'Right to life' -

They are taught by volunteer Iraqi teachers, and receive books, clothes and meals for free.
The night classes are all in English, the school's head Sanaa Baki said, as the parents of most Iraqi students have applied for resettlement abroad.
She hopes the language skills will help the children better settle in foreign schools if these requests are granted.
Some 10,000 Iraqi Christian refugees live in Jordan, according to Father Rifaat Badr, who heads a Catholic research centre.
Many of them dream of new lives in Europe, Canada, Australia or in the United States.
The church's priest, Khalil Jaar, believes education is also key to the children remembering where they come from.
"The saying goes, 'If you want to destroy a people, erase their history and make their children ignorant'," he said.
"We need to work to ensure all these children are given their right to education and to life."
This month, France's ambassador to Jordan, David Bertolotti, visited the church to announce a 120,000 euro ($140,000) donation for the night classes to continue until the end of the school year.
Under a large Christmas tree, children with wooden crosses dangling around their necks sang the Iraqi national anthem at the top of their lungs.
Ban Benyamin Yussef, a mother-of-four, was among the parents present.
"After Daesh members plundered, destroyed and burned our home and my husband's grocery shop, we decided to pack our bags and seek refuge in Jordan, hoping to start a new life," the 43-year-old said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
It was the last leg of a journey fleeing harassment across Iraq.
"When sectarian violence flared in 2006, we received death threats and fled Baghdad for Mosul", a city in northern Iraq, she said.
Threatened there too, they escaped to a small village north of the city -- until IS arrived in 2014.
But even now that Iraqi forces have claimed victory over the jihadists, Yussef and her family have no intention of returning to Iraq.
"We can't go back. Our towns have been destroyed. We've lost everything."

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Parroco di Amadiya: Avvento fra i profughi di Mosul, la solidarietà più forte delle difficoltà

By Asia News

Fra i rifugiati di Mosul e della piana di Ninive ancora oggi ospitati nei centri di accoglienza della parrocchia di Enishke, nel Kurdistan irakeno, si respira “un clima di gioia e di speranza”, a dispetto “delle difficoltà”. Anzi, le fatiche di ogni giorno e la lotta quotidiana per la sopravvivenza “hanno accresciuto il legame di unione e solidarietà fra cristiani”, che finisce per abbracciare “anche le famiglie musulmane”. È quanto racconta ad AsiaNews p. Samir Youssef, sacerdote della diocesi di Amadiya (Kurdistan), che ha curato negli anni migliaia di famiglie di profughi cristiani, musulmani, yazidi che hanno lasciato le loro case nel 2014 per sfuggire ai miliziani dello Stato islamico (Si, ex Isis). Archiviata la lotta contro il movimento jihadista, dichiarato sconfitto lo scorso fine settimana dal premier al-Abadi, restano molti i problemi degli sfollati che non hanno dispongono nemmeno delle risorse di base per sopravvivere.
Le famiglie “anche se vivono situazioni di difficoltà non si fanno prendere dalla tristezza e dalla stanchezza”, racconta p. Samir; al contrario, sembrano “essere sostenute da una forza che va oltre la sfera materiale”. Vi è un “sentimento comune di appartenenza fra le persone” che spesso cercano di “aiutarsi fra loro, acquistando cibo e generi di prima necessità, vestiti”. Tutto questo, aggiunge, “contribuisce a creare davvero il clima del Natale, un sentimento e una attenzione che ci fanno sentire davvero amati”.
Nell’area vivono ancora oggi 150 famiglie di rifugiati cristiani, musulmani e yazidi; essi provengono da Batnaya, Qaraqosh, Telkief, altri ancora da Mosul. Le loro case sono tuttora inagibili e non possono fare rientro. Di queste, il 20-30% circa riceve aiuti dall’estero o beneficia di una indipendenza minima perché riesce a guadagnare un po’ di denaro col proprio lavoro di piccolo commerciante, artigiano ma il restante 70% conta in massima parte sugli aiuti senza i quali non hanno di che sopravvivere.
La situazione a livello economico è ancora difficile, perché il governo di Baghdad e quello del Kurdistan non si sono accordati sul pagamento dei salari per insegnanti e impiegati. Ad oggi vi sono solo vaghe promesse dell’esecutivo centrale, ma niente di concreto. Inoltre, ancora oggi vi sono famiglie dei villaggi e delle cittadine circostanti che si rivolgono alla parrocchia di Enishke in cerca di aiuti o piccoli contributi per la sopravvivenza; si tratta di persone che non hanno nulla e portano con sé storie terribili che si ripetono ogni settimana.
P. Samir, fra i principali beneficiari della campagna di AsiaNews "Adotta un cristiano di Mosul", sottolinea che in questo tempo natalizio le famiglie erano solite fare acquisti come generi alimentari e abbigliamento. Tuttavia, oggi la situazione di crisi “ha ridotto in modo drastico le risorse, pochissimi prendono e salari e hanno soldi sufficienti per le spese. Proprio in questi giorni il governo del Kurdistan ha affermato che non vi è denaro per pagare i salari, già in arretrato di due mesi, fino al nuovo anno”.
Ecco perché la Chiesa locale ha rinnovato i propri sforzi per venire incontro alle necessità della popolazione, sia che si tratti di famiglie rifugiate che di abitanti da tempo stanziati nella zona; una solidarietà che, per quanto possibile, cerca di abbracciare cristiani, musulmani, yazidi come conferma lo stesso sacerdote. “Per una settimana - racconta p. Samir - la parrocchia ha organizzato un mercato di Natale con cibo, latte, generi di prima necessità, vestiario e scarpe. Abbiamo venduto gli articoli a un prezzo inferiore rispetto alla città. In precedenza, come Chiesa, avevamo distribuito buoni spesa da 100 dollari a 120 famiglie più bisognose. Altri hanno acquistato a prezzo calmierato. Le risorse diminuiscono, ma cerchiamo lo stesso di aiutare quanti sono in difficoltà”.
Questa iniziativa ha attirato anche l’attenzione delle famiglie musulmane, che hanno chiesto di poter usufruire dei prezzi ribassati come i cristiani e gli yazidi. “Purtroppo - racconta il sacerdote - non avevamo risorse sufficienti per tutti, quindi non abbiamo potuto accoglierle direttamente noi. Conosco però famiglie cristiane che hanno comprato cibo e vestiti, per poi regalarlo alle famiglie musulmane. Anche alberi di Natale, per coinvolgerli nella festa”. La comunità ha realizzato, aggiunge, che le risorse “non sono più come prima, quindi ci si sacrifica e si condividono maggiormente beni e risorse. Per fare un esempio: ieri una donna cristiana ha utilizzato 80 dei 100 dollari di buono, senza chiedere il resto e lasciandone i 20 rimanenti da ridistribuire in cibo ai più poveri. Una vera e propria solidarietà dal basso che ha convolto anche il padrone musulmano di un mini-market vicino alla parrocchia, che ci fa prezzi di favore e vende a credito, aspettando senza fretta il momento in cui possiamo pagarlo”.
In queste settimane di Avvento la comunità si prepara alla nascita di Gesù, attraverso momenti di incontro e di preghiera, come quello che la scorsa settimana ha coinvolto oltre 850 ragazzi e ragazze delle medie e delle superiori. Un incontro ospitato dal centro culturale Giovanni Paolo II, sotto la guida di 10 sacerdoti e suore e caratterizzato da seminari, testimonianze, recita del Rosario, messe. Il 20 dicembre prossimo ci saranno le confessioni per tutta la comunità, poi la notte della vigilia la messa solenne. “In tutto l’Iraq - conclude p. Samir - i cristiani cercano di essere una fonte di gioia e riconciliazione, ma non lasciateci soli: abbiamo bisogno delle vostre preghiere, della vostra vicinanza e solidarietà. Perché questa terra diventi una terra di pace e, in questo, è racchiusa tutta la forza del messaggio di Natale”.

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venerdì, dicembre 15, 2017


Criminal organizations exploit refugees’ desperation

By Huffington Post
Nuri Kino

It has become increasingly difficult to get out of the war-ravaged lands of the Middle East where millions have been left with homeless and hopeless futures. In Sweden it can take up to two years for someone who has obtained a residential permit, to bring his or her family for a so-called family reunification. This has led to a massive increase in human trafficking. I met some victims who have entrusted their lives and money into the hands unscrupulous gangs, organized into leagues with branches in Sweden and Germany.

In a church in the northern part of Beirut I’m being told that a young mother has gone from Syria to Lebanon, hoping to continue on. Her husband has paid 5000 euros for a visa to Germany. The person who has received the money claims to be working in the German embassy. But it’s a lie. The money has been paid, but the visa does not exist.
I ask a volunteer at the church if he knows about this scam. He says that everyone – aid workers and government officials – knows that refugees are being fooled.
A young woman from Bagdad, Terez, whispers that she knows others who have been fooled. She asks me to accompany her to a four-storey house in the ghetto nearby. There she tells me how she and her brother had to flee to Lebanon when jihadists started to kidnap Assyrians/Chaldeans/Syrians and other Christians. Their father was one of them. 
Her brother Tomas arrives. Terez prepares Arabic coffee, while Tomas tells their story. The siblings’ story is painfully familiar – persecution, harassment, abuse and violent deaths. Non-Muslims are facing increasingly unbearable conditions in countries like Iraq and Syria.
Terez is married to an American of Iraqi origin and is due to move to the US, but she doesn’t want to leave Tomas alone. “We only have each other, I can’t go and leave him behind”, she says.
The coffee is served in the traditional small cups. I swallow almost all the content in one sip. At first, they glance at me strangely, but then then we laugh, all four of us. The atmosphere eases. I am given another cup to feed my caffeine addiction.
Terez brings out a folder, full of their collective desperation. The message is “rejection”, even though they have been promised – and have paid for – “approval”. The imposters are smart. They have falsified business cards to convince refugees in Lebanon and Jordan that they work, for example, at the Swedish and German consulates, and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Tomas shows me his mobile phone. In the Middle East, most people use the app WhatsApp, which is used for recording and sending sound messages. Tomas has kept the whole conversation between him and the fraudster, Basil. We listen to the recordings. Tomas calls Basil and asks if he can help him. Basil answers that they have to be careful, that it mustn’t be revealed that he helps people to get visas to Australia, but he will gladly help Tomas, since they have common acquaintances. Basil makes it sound like he is doing Tomas a favour, and that the money will go towards his expenses, and to other people at the embassy, whom he must bribe.
A cruel hoax
The months pass. Tomas pays Basil 5000 euros. Money that he and Terez have borrowed from relatives, friends and old neighbours, Christian Iraqis, who are scattered all over the world. We continue listening. Basil lies and lies. One day he is going to return the money, another day it’s impossible. But then suddenly the siblings’ father, who is hiding in Iraq, is in need of an emergency operation. There isn’t enough money. Tomas calls Basil in a panic, asks him to stop everything and return the money, and if not, the father is going to die. Basil says it’s not possible, but Tomas mustn’t give up hope, because soon he will leave the Middle East and be able to work and send money for his father’s operation. 
Then Basil changes his mobile number. He disappears with the money. And the siblings’ situation is now worsened. They can’t go to the police in Lebanon, because they are there illegally. They can’t go back to Bagdad. And the father is very ill. Besides that, they are up over their ears in debt.
Tomas shows me receipts for two Western Union transactions. The money has been sent to two persons in Germany. I google the names, investigates social media. Are they real, or are they fake identities? Yes, they exist, but they make themselves impossible to reach when I try to contact them.
Politician involved
I do get in touch with Paulus Kurt, who works for Internationale Gesellschaft orientalischer Christen. He is working with refugees and is very aware of the fact that these criminal gangs fool them. And he has reported a German local politician to the police, because he has fooled about 40 people in Sweden and Germany, who have residential permits, but have tried to bring over their families, friends and old neighbours. The league targets Christians, Yezidis and other non-Muslim groups.
Paulus Kurt got suspicious when he heard that a politician was helping people to apply for visas, but at a cost. He asked to see the copies. “I could tell at once they were false, no applications had been made, and that nobody would get a visa that way. I called the refugees and have now identified forty-five families who have been scammed in Sweden only”.
That night he sends me links to German news articles and TV reports. The politician has left his post and is undergoing a criminal investigation. Most people have lost their money. “Some have the power and brute force to scare the league, and therefore did get their money back, while others are powerless”, Paulus Kurt says.
I want to get hold of Basil, and I go to a translation agency, where I have been told I might get in touch with him. I ask if they know anyone who can get my relatives to Europe, preferably Sweden. I say I can pay and that I am desperate. They ask for my number, point out that they are not involved in anything criminal, but might know someone who can help me. They want to do this just for goodwill.
I log onto Facebook. Basil has three Facebook pages. Pictures of when he is at embassy offices, and at the local UN office in Beirut. It looks good. It’s understandable that many buy into the bluff, when you see the pictures. I approach some of his contacts, who work with refugees in Sweden and Germany. Everybody knows of him, and that he works with asylum issues in the Middle East, but they don’t know exactly what he is doing.
I seek him via Messenger. After twenty-four hours he responds. He says “hello” and asks what he can do for me. I write that I am a journalist and ask if he can answer a couple of questions. He replies that “he knows someone at Skate Varkat in Malmo”. It might be a threat. He wants me to know that he knows people in Sweden. I persist, and ask kindly what he works with. He doesn’t answer any more.
In Sweden I get in touch with Sharbel, through Paulus Kurt. He’s from Syria and was smuggled to Sweden at a cost of 10 000 euros in the summer of 2014. In May 2016 he got his residential visa. He then found out that his wife and two children wouldn’t be able to come for at least another 18 months, because the queues to the Swedish consulate were massive. “The only Swedish embassy they could go to was the one in Jordan, but the borders are closed, and open very erratically. The roads are closed”, says Sharbel, when he explains why he paid for false visas.
He got in touch with the German politician’s network, and calls his relatives and friends. He had found a new way to get into Europe. “My brother-in-law was killed in a suicide bombing and left his wife and daughter behind. We thought we must take them to safety in Europe. My in-laws also wanted to come, as well as my sister, brother and their families”.
Sharbel paid a total of 25000 euros for the family’s visas to Germany. It was a hoax. Three people, Sharbel’s wife and two daughters, managed finally to get to Sweden. The others are still in Syria.
Terez, Tomas, Basil and Sharbel are fictitious names.
*Susan Korah from Canada and Ann Kristin Sandlund from Sweden contributed to this report
**This report was first published in the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet

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Sacerdote iracheno perdona l’assassino del fratello e chi lo ha cacciato di casa

By Aleteia
Javier Lozano
Traduzione dallo spagnolo a cura di Roberta Sciamplicotti

Padre Naim Shoshandy
è un giovane sacerdote iracheno di rito siro-cattolico. A 34 anni confessa che la terra in cui è nato ha visto solo guerra e orrori. Lui stesso conosce in prima persona la sofferenza e la persecuzione.
Naim è il minore di cinque fratelli. Suo fratello Raid è stato assassinato a Mosul per il solo fatto di essere cristiano, e sia lui che la sua famiglia hanno dovuto fuggire dalla loro città, Qaraqosh, quando nel 2014 lo Stato Islamico ha attaccato e conquistato la città, in cui esisteva una consistente minoranza cristiana.

Una campagna perché i cristiani iracheni possano tornare a casa
Il religioso si è recato mercoledì a Madrid alla presentazione della campagna di Aiuto alla Chiesa che Soffre Ayúdales a volver (Aiutali a tornare), nella quale si ricostruiranno oltre 13.000 case di cristiani e centinaia di chiese e cappelle nella piana di Ninive perché possano tornare nella propria terra, in quella dei loro antenati, in cui hanno ricevuto la fede.
Visibilmente emozionato, padre Naim si è interrotto varie volte per le lacrime. Per vari anni ha vissuto con la famiglia e i parrocchiani in un campo di rifugiati di Erbil, nel Kurdistan iracheno, dove ha svolto la sua opera pastorale e ha seguito un programma di aiuto ai malati di cancro, malattia che ha ucciso suo padre, sfollato dagli jihadisti.
Nel suo intervento, il sacerdote ha parlato della forza della fede dei cristiani iracheni, della forza del perdono che stanno sperimentando e della grande voglia che hanno di tornare nelle proprie case. Non vogliono andare in Europa, né negli Stati Uniti o in Paesi vicini. Vogliono tornare a casa anche se sanno che non è ancora un luogo sicuro.

“Siamo riusciti a perdonare l’assassino di mio fratello”
“Vivere da cristiani in Iraq non è facile”, ha affermato, ricordando quanto sia stato difficile l’assassinio di suo fratello per mano degli islamisti. “La sua morte è stata dura, ma grazie a Dio siamo riusciti a perdonare l’assassino di mio fratello”, ha spiegato.
Nella sua testimonianza ha ricordato il momento in cui è caduta Mosul, la seconda città dell’Iraq per grandezza, ad appena 30 chilometri da Qaraqosh, il suo villaggio. Non dimenticherà nemmeno quel 6 agosto 2014, quando all’alba tutti sono stati svegliati dal rumore delle bombe e delle esplosioni, così come non dimentica il giorno in cui sono arrivati gli jihadisti.

L’arrivo dei terroristi a casa sua
Lo Stato Islamico ha attaccato Qaraqosh, e una delle bombe “è caduta vicino a casa mia. Ricordo che è morta una ragazza, una mia vicina che aveva quasi 25 anni, e anche due bambini che giocavano in strada”.
In quel momento hanno iniziato a provare una paura che non li ha più abbandonati e che solo la fede è riuscita a vincere. “Abbiamo sofferto molto per il fatto di doverci lasciare indietro la nostra vita, le nostre cose, la nostra storia, non sapendo dove andavamo e se saremmo rimasti in vita”, ha detto tra le lacrime. Hanno quindi iniziato a dormire in strada, in alcune tende nei parcheggi, soffrendo caldo e freddo.

La Croce, il motivo della sua espulsione
“Tutti siamo dovuti andare via da lì per questa croce”, ha detto padre Naim mostrando un grande crocifisso. Essere cristiani era l’unico motivo per il quale fuggivano o morivano. I cristiani, però, non hanno rinnegato la loro fede per sopravvivere.
Il sacerdote siro-cattolico ha affermato orgoglioso che i cristiani perseguitati del suo Paese “hanno una fede molto grande perché Dio è con noi”.

L’“arma” dei cristiani iracheni
Gli jihadisti hanno armi e bombe. “Noi abbiamo Dio e il Rosario come arma”, ha affermato mostrando il crocifisso e il rosario, le uniche cose che è riuscito a portare con sé quando ha dovuto lasciare in fretta Qaraqosh. Non ha potuto prendere né vestiti né beni, solo quello che aveva addosso e le sue due “armi”.
Malgrado le sofferenze che hanno sperimentato lui e il resto dei cristiani della piana di Ninive, padre Naim ha insistito sul fatto che “siamo riusciti a perdonare le persone dello Stato islamico”. “Nell’accampamento con mia madre abbiamo provato sofferenza, dolore, stanchezza, ma sempre con la certezza che Dio è con noi”.
Com’è riuscito a perdonare? È una domanda che gli pongono molti. La sua risposta è chiara: “Quando Cristo era sulla croce, ha perdonato chi lo stava uccidendo. Questa è la testimonianza che attende il mondo”.

’anelito a tornare nelle proprie case
Sia padre Naim che migliaia di cristiani che vivono nei campi di rifugiati vogliono solo tornare nelle loro case. Sa che molti cristiani se ne sono andati per non tornare più, ma ce ne sono molte migliaia che vogliono riprendere la propria vita dopo essere stati strappate da lì tre anni fa.
“Perché dobbiamo abbandonare il nostro Paese, la nostra terra, la nostra storia, i miei nonni, la mia Chiesa, la mia fede? Questo Paese lo abbiamo fatto anche noi”,
ha detto con decisione.
Per aiutare a realizzare questo anelito dei cristiani perseguitati è stata avviata la campagna di ACS per aiutarli a ricostruire case e chiese distrutte dallo Stato Islamico.

Dio non ci abbandonerà”
Il sacerdote iracheno ha trasmesso il sentire dei suoi parrocchiani: “Abbiamo la speranza di tornare a casa. Dio non ci abbandonerà, e abbiamo anche la speranza che ci siano fratelli che ci aiuteranno”.
La sua esperienza di fede, ha aggiunto, gli ha mostrato che “Dio era con noi in ogni momento, e non è mai lontano dalle persone che soffrono”. Il sacerdote confida nella Provvidenza e nell’aiuto dei cristiani d’Occidente, “i miei fratelli”.
“Vogliamo tornare, vogliamo vivere come cristiani in Iraq”
, ha aggiunto, avanzando anche una richiesta molto concreta: i cristiani iracheni vogliono “celebrare il Natale in casa, mettere il presepe e l’albero”.

Una campagna senza precedenti di Aiuto alla Chiesa che Soffre

Questa campagna è quella di maggior spessore intrapresa da Aiuto alla Chiesa che Soffre, ha affermato Javier Menéndez Ros, direttore di questa fondazione pontificia in Spagna.
Tecnici e architetti della fondazione hanno visitato le località cristiane della piana di Ninive casa per casa perché 12.000 famiglie vi potessero tornare. In totale, 13.088 case sono state danneggiate dai terroristi. Di queste, 8.291 sono state parzialmente distrutte, 3.357 bruciate e 1.234 totalmente distrutte.
363 edifici ecclesiali – parrocchie o cappelle – sono state colpite dai terroristi: 197 sono state parzialmente distrutte, 132 date alle fiamme e 34 completamente rase al suolo. Con la campagna “Aiutali a tornare” si vuole rafforzare la presenza cristiana in questa zona dell’Iraq, dalla quale sono stati espulsi 120.000 cristiani.
“Vogliamo tornare!”,
ha concluso il suo intervento padre Naim, sapendo che la Provvidenza agirà per aiutarli.

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giovedì, dicembre 14, 2017


Theresa May given scorched Bible saved from Iraqi church burned by ISIS

By Christian Today

A Bible in Arabic taken from the ruins of a church in Iraq burned by Islamic State has been presented to Prime Minister Theresa May.
The Bible, bearing scorch-marks from the fire, is from St Mary's in Karamles, one of the Christian towns in the Nineveh Plain badly damaged by the terrorist group. Karamles originally had 797 houses and of these, 464 have been burned, 97 have been completely destroyed by bombs and the rest are damaged or vandalised. Christians have gradually been returning there, helped by church-led organisations including Aid to the Church in Need, but many are still afraid to go back.
Lisa Pearce, chief executive of Open Doors UK and Ireland, Father Daniel from Erbil in Iraq and Conservative MP Caroline Spelman met the Prime Minister yesterday in Parliament to highlight the plight of Christians and minorities in the Middle East and ask for help in securing a better future for them.
Daniel presented Mrs May with the Bible and later spoke to MPs, peers and church leaders.
The event came after 808,172 people from 142 countries signed a petition, launched by Open Doors, asking the UK government and the United Nations to ensure that Middle Eastern Christians and other minorities enjoy the right to equal citizenship, dignified living conditions and a prominent role in reconciling and rebuilding their society.

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KRG says Christians aren't ‘minorities’ because they are ‘integral part’ of Kurdistan

By Kurdistan 24
Karzan Sulaivany 

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on Wednesday said it refused to use the term “minorities” when referring to Christians and other ethnic groups in Kurdistan as they are an “integral part” of the Region.
“The components that live in the Kurdistan Region are not minorities, but are authentic components and have historical roots in this country,” KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said, referring to Christians and other non-Muslim religious groups, during a meeting with representatives of Christian political factions.
The term “minorities” has often become a common word for senior Iraqi executives in official documents, government communications, and press conferences, although they are not included in the Constitution.
The Christians in Iraq have been subjected to increased violence since 2003 when the former Iraqi regime—led by Saddam Hussein—collapsed, prompting many of them to flee to the Kurdistan Region or move abroad to Europe and America for security reasons.
The Christian population in Iraq was once as large as 1.5 million and is believed to have now reached less than half of that, according to recent government statistics.
Unlike Iraq, Kurdistan has been recognized as an oasis of calm and stability, earning a positive reputation as a haven for all components especially since the emergence of the Islamic State (IS).
When IS launched their blitzkrieg on the country in 2014, the militant group targeted ethnic and religious components in Sinjar (Shingal) and the Nineveh Plains, home to thousands of Christians.
“It is necessary to ensure the rights of Christians based on the law, and to ensure their presence is felt in all areas of the Region,” Prime Minister Barzani continued.
The KRG leader’s meeting with the Christian political factions coincides with reports of unrest in the Nineveh Plains, which is inhabited by Christians, Yezidis (Ezidis), Shabaks, and others.
The representatives of the Christian factions shared their concern with Prime Minister Barzani on the current situation in Nineveh, while also demanding the Iraqi government “reduce the military and security forces in these areas,” a KRG statement read.
Iraqi forces took control of most of the Nineveh Plains in late 2016 after Kurdish Peshmerga forces launched an offensive to liberate the area from IS.

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'I cannot remember peace': One Iraqi priest's hopes for Christians in the Middle East

By Christian Today
Harry Farley

'Tell me your dreams,' Father Daniel, an Iraqi priest in the northern city of Irbil asked the children he looks after.
The children's response was what they had grown used to seeing. To kill, maim and seek revenge on those who had done the same to them — ISIS.
'On that day I was thinking if we didn't take care of our children maybe the next generation of ISIS would come from our children. I was really afraid of that,' he told Christian Today in an interview.
Through a series of classes and trauma clinics run through his church in northern Iraq, he is gradually teaching the more than 350 children who take refuge there the importance of forgiveness.
'Today if you ask me if I am really worried about the children I would say no. I trust them. They have shown a positivity in the dealing with so many negative cases that came from their neighbours.'
But his long-term dream is still to be realised.
At the age of 27 Father Daniel says he cannot remember any point in his life where there was peace, growing up as he did with the Gulf War, then being threatened by Al Qaida in Baghdad before the US-UK invasion in 2003 and then the ISIS rampage. 'Every day, even if we hear some good news, we are afraid that two minutes after we are going to get some bad news,' he said. 'We don't have the hope.'
Now even with ISIS all but gone from Iraq, the residual bitterness against other communities and the government, especially from Kurdish-controlled Erbil, remains strong.
'There is always tension among Christians about the future,' says Father Daniel. 'Many are uncertain about what will happen next. Are we going to stay or are we going to leave? Of course this thinking not coming from nothing. They have experienced negative and bad things that started from the crisis where ISIS raided their villages and houses.
'Since then until there is no trust. They don't trust the government. They don't trust their neighbours. When they left their houses, villages and cities, their neighbours were the first to steal their property.
'So there are still tensions.' 
For those tensions to subside, Christian leaders must be involved in the peacebuilding process, he says.
Father Daniel is in the UK to present a petition alongside the Christian persecution charity Open Doors to the UK government - a responsibility he says he bears heavily. It asks the foreign office to protect the rights of religious minorities as both Syria and Iraq rebuild after the trauma of ISIS' invasion. It also asks for decent living conditions including jobs and houses, especially for returning refugees and for faith leaders to have a prominent role in the reconciliation process.
How Western governments should bring about these requests is another question.
Father Daniel expresses enthusiasm about the US Vice President Mike Pence's announcement the State Department would divert aid money away from the United Nations' programmes and straight to faith based agencies.
'I think it is a good idea to be in direct contact with the Iraqi Christians,' he said. 'The Church can play a role that no government or organisation in the world can do.'
The UK government is unlikely to follow the same path of antagonising the UN as Trump's administration. But there is a frustration among campaigners in the UK at the lack of tangible effort from the foreign office to improve conditions for Christians in the Middle East.
Fearful of UNHCR refugee camps because they are dominated and run but different faith groups who are hostile, Christians are excluded from resettlement schemes in to the UK and forced to find shelter where they can in nearby churches. Hundreds of thousands remain internally displaced within their country but without a home.
Open Doors' petition hopes to raise awareness and funds to step in where ministers are reluctant. Last year the global Open Doors International network raised around $70 million for persecuted Christians providing food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources.
But unless the trend changes dramatically there will be few Christians left to support. Open Doors UK is warning that 80 per cent of Christians have left Iraq with as little as 200,000 remaining compared to up to 2 million in the 1980s.
On top of that Christians made up between 8-10 per cent of the Syrian population before 2011 with Aleppo the most Christian city with 400,000 believers. Now that number is around 60,000 and some estimates suggest 800,000 Christians have fled across the country.

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Conference on Persecuted Christians in the Middle East

The Chaldean Archbishops of Basra and the south, Habib Jajou participated in the Conference on persecuted Christians in the Middle East held in Brussels, Belgium between Tuesday and Wednesday, 5-6 December on behalf of HB Mar Louis Raphael Sako. The title of the Conference was: ‘Christmas after Daesh: Hope reborn for Christians in the Middle East'. Memberes from the European Parliament and Concerned Christian organizations have come to adopt an action in support of the Iraqi and Syria Christians.
Archbishop Jajou called for urgent help and more comprehensive action because Christians have been facing new challenges. They have been fronting two scenarios: one of peace and the second one of violence; ‘the extremist Muslims will try to lead Iraq to be a permanent place of conflict’ he said. He mentioned what HB addressed at a conference in Rome in Sep. 2017 that ‘Iraq is losing an irreplaceable component of its society, the Christian one; hence the countdown has begun for the vanishing of a genuine tradition!
Archbishop Jajou presented a Road Map included the following:
First, moving forward with social resilience and protection of the national fabric of different religions, cultures and backgrounds.
Second, educating the new generation and spreading optimistic concepts about life through social media.
Third, protecting ethnic minorities by a national and international law.
Fourth, calling the Iraqi government and other policymakers to take legal decisions and decisive actions to stand at the same space of everyone in a civil state.
Fifth, calling the Islamic religious leaders to work with other cultural institutions and social media to adopt a positive discourse that deepens the sense of citizenship;
Sixth, reforming the education curriculums in schools to prepare a new and adequate educational program to eradicate the fundamentalist ideology and to adapt it to the requirements of modern times. Finally, he requested to redrafting the Article 2 in the Iraqi Constitution and Article 26 in the Personal Status Low which abuses other religions.

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Iraqi priest arrives in UK, warns Islamic State support will last for decade

By Premier
Alex Williams

An Iraqi priest has told Premier that efforts by Islamic State (IS) to indoctrinate children means erasing the group's ideology from the Middle East could take ten years.
Fr Daniel arrived in London to deliver a petition on Wednesday which urges the British Government not to ignore the plight of persecuted believers and other minorities in the region, many of whom have fled extremism and conflict.
In taking over areas in Iraq, including the sprawling city of Mosul in the Nineveh Plains, IS forced primary and secondary school-age children to undergo a radical school curriculum.
Fr Daniel, who now supports traumatised children, said: "They planted something very deep in their [the children's] minds and it will take a very, very long time to remove all of these ideas."
The 27-year-old from Erbil joined the anti-persecution charity Open Doors UK in encouraging ministers to commit to helping refugees and internally displaced people return home, as IS is gradually forced out.
Asserting that the Iraqi church is ready to engage in the rebuilding and reconciliation efforts, Fr Daniel also said: "During the time of displacement when they were staying in the [refugee] centres, those people [believers] were taught and were healed from their trauma.
"Now, they have more resilience so they can deal better with these cases."
His petition, signed by 750,000 in 143 countries, urges that the rights of Christians and other minorities as citizens of Middle Eastern countries be recognised, and that they have access to "dignified" living conditions.
The document, which forms part of Open Doors' Hope for the Middle East campaign, will be presented to peers and MPs in the House of Parliament.

Click on the title of the post to listen to Premier's Alex Williams speaking with Fr Daniel.

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