venerdì, gennaio 18, 2019

 

Iraqi Curriculum Issues Veiled Threat Against Christian Women

By International Christian Concern
Claire Evans

Questions persist throughout Iraq regarding whether ISIS is truly defeated or will rise again, perhaps under the banner of another terrorist organization. For Iraqi Christians, the question is often not if, but when. Though defeated militarily, the ideology of ISIS remains victorious in Iraq. Nowhere is this undercurrent more apparent than in the educational curriculum.
Last month, Iraq’s Ministry of Education released its new curriculum which immediately received heavy condemnation from Iraq’s Christians. Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, the Chaldean Patriarchate of Babylon, issued a statement condemning the curriculum’s content.
He said, “In a book of Islamic curriculum for the first and fifth grades, I read inaccurate, inappropriate and offensives statements that incite hatred and division, which are far from the values of tolerance and the principles of citizenship and coexistence.”
“The role of the Ministry of Education is to raise children properly,” Cardinal Sako continued. He added that they should “raise children and teach them (how to) accept others in humanity and as citizens. Not as an enemy who should be eliminated.”
The textbooks in question are intended for children of the ages 6 and 11. Christians were specifically outraged about a section of the fifth grade curriculum which says that “the woman who is not covered (veiled) is sick.” Concerns quickly arose that the curriculum was encouraging violence against Christian women, as they do not wear the hijab (veil).
“Here we would’ve explained our opinion as a religious and national department which cares about dialogue between different (religious) components and say: the hijab is something further than a piece of fabric. The hijab is something related to the mind to keep our ethics properly. There are a lot of uncovered Muslim women. But they have good ethics and behave in a proper way and vice versa. The hijab is something that should be done with freedom,” said Cardinal Sako.
Iraqi Christians were quick to point out that the Ministry of Education’s decision to include this kind of statement in the curriculum was unsurprising. “The problem is not only with the curriculum,” said Marin, who has 10 children. “The parents come and ask for the hijab for their daughters only during the Islamic class. That’s another disaster.”
Marin also points to the recent resignation of Shaima al-Hayali just days after her appointment as Iraq’s Education Minister. She is an academic from Mosul and resigned after allegations arose that her brother, Laith al-Hayali, was a senior ISIS member.

She claimed on Twitter that “ISIS forced everyone in Mosul to work for them, threatening those who refused to join.” She further stated that her brother worked for ISIS under duress. However, the former governor of Nineveh Province, which includes Mosul, says that he has evidence proving her brother’s involvement with ISIS. Local media also reported security sources saying that she had two cousins who belonged to ISIS.
The situation underscores the concern that many Christians have about whom to trust. “Can you imagine that the brother of a minister of education is one of the main leaders for ISIS?!” asked Marin. “I can say that I am not surprised about the curriculum, even its effect is wide.”
Ayda, a Christian private school principal, is also concerned about the widespread consequences of the curriculum. “The school system in Iraq is bad,” he said. “The government stands against those who want to improve it. You know, private schools MUST teach the government’s curriculum, in addition to international private curriculums.”
This includes the obligation that private schools must teach Islamic classes for Muslim students. “We have the Islamic curriculum from the first grade. I think it should be religious curriculum, instead of only Islam and probably not from the very beginning,” added Ayda.
Ayda has much frustration that the quality of education has been compromised for the sake of promoting an Islamic religious curriculum. “We are burdening children with the government’s curriculum, which is useless. It is taking most of the children’s energy… If children focused [instead] on music or art, those people could not take the terrorism and violence direction when they grow up.”
For years, Iraqi Christians have warned against the curriculum as a significant contributor to the persecution they face. Nothing has been accomplished. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education remains weighed down by a scandal that reminds Christians of something they already knew: ISIS is defeated, but not yet gone.

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Card. Sako ai nuovi vescovi di Mosul e Baghdad: lavorare per la Chiesa e l’Iraq


Amare la Chiesa Caldea “rafforzandone l’unità” nel rapporto con il patriarca e tutte le sue componenti; amare la “madrepatria” Iraq, fonte “della nostra identità” e “lavorare duro per la sua stabilità”, affinché “possa raggiungere la pace” e “muovere verso il progresso e la stabilità”. È l’invito che il patriarca caldeo card Louis Raphael Sako rivolge al neo arcivescovo di Mosul e all’ausiliare di Baghdad, nell’omelia della messa di ordinazione episcopale celebrata  oggi  nella cattedrale di San Giuseppe. Il porporato ricorda loro di aver “ereditato la fede di San Tommaso”, l’apostolo della Chiesa orientale, e che dovranno “guidare” il loro “popolo al Signore”. 
Per la comunità caldea e per tutto l’Iraq oggi è una giornata di festa, perché celebra di fatto il ritorno a pieno titolo di un pastore in quella che, per anni, è stata la roccaforte dello Stato islamico (SI, ex Isis) e in cui i jihadisti hanno compiuto terribili atrocità. Al padre domenicano Najib Mikhael Moussa il compito di ricostruire il tessuto sociale ed ecclesiale di Mosul, oltre a riallacciare le relazioni con la popolazione musulmana. 
Rivolgendosi a lui, il card Sako sottolinea le difficoltà che attendono il prelato in una diocesi “devastata”. Tuttavia, la missione è di “rafforzare la gioia della liberazione e stabilire la speranza di un ritorno” a pieno titolo dei cristiani. Per far questo egli dovrà “lavorare a stretto contatto con le persone di buona volontà”, anche musulmani, per “ricostituire la fiducia” fra le diverse componenti della società a Mosul. 
Il vescovo, avverte il primate caldeo, dovrà “promuovere la coesistenza e smantellare i residui rimasti dell’Isis, fra cui l’ideologia, le abitudini e i costumi”. Una grande sfida, avverte, che richiede “attiva partecipazione della Chiesa e dei cristiani nella vita pubblica” di una città distrutta “quasi per intero” nelle sue chiese più antiche. “Che tu sia - afferma - il nuovo Giona per Ninive”. 
Il card. Sako si è poi rivolto al neo ausiliare di Baghdad, mons. Robert Jarjis, del quale ricorda il “successo” negli anni vissuti da parroco, in cui ha vissuto in modo “indipendente”. Ora, invece, egli dovrà avere una impostazione più “comunionale” della vita e diventare un membro attivo “del team patriarcale” lavorando con “entusiasmo, comprensione, amore e umiltà”. 
Alla cerimonia odierna hanno vescovi da tutto l’Iraq, oltre ad ambasciatori, ministri in rappresentanza del governo, leader religiosi musulmani sciiti e sunniti, familiari e amici. Ai fedeli presenti, il card Sako ha chiesto di accompagnare e sostenere i due nuovi prelati nella loro missione “con l’amore, il rispetto e le preghiere” perché “il popolo attorno a noi” è elemento “di forza”. 
L’episcopato, ricorda il primate caldeo, è una “chiamata” non un “privilegio” e il vescovo “non è altro che un servitore”. In particolare, nella tradizione assiro-caldea egli viene chiamato “Abun Maalia” che vuol dire “padre” che tratta i figli “in modo eguale, con amore e tenerezza” e lontano da ogni discriminazione. “Il vescovo - conclude il card Sako - che le persone sono i suoi partner e devono lavorare uniti come un unico corpo per il benessere e la prosperità della Chiesa” utilizzando “saggezza, ascolto, pazienza e capacità di relazionarsi con i propri assistenti”.

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giovedì, gennaio 17, 2019

 

Ordinazione di due nuovi vescovi caldei: Mons. Najib Mikhael Moussa, O.P. e Mons. Robert Saeed Jarjis

By Baghdadhope*

Si svolgerà domattina alle 10,00 nella cattedrale caldea di San Giuseppe a Baghdad la cerimonia di ordinazione episcopale del nuovo vescovo di Mosul, il Domenicano Mons. Najib Mikhael Moussa e del nuovo vescovo ausiliare Monsignor Robert Saeed Jarjis. A guidare la celebrazione sarà il Patriarca della chiesa caldea, il Cardinale Mar Louis Sako.
Foto Patriarcato Caldeo.
A sx Mons. Moussa a dx Mons. Jarjis

Alcune note biografiche dei due nuovi vescovi tratte dal bollettino vaticano

Monsignor Najib Mikhael Moussa, O.P., è nato a Mosul (Iraq) il 9 settembre 1955. Ha fatto studi civili nel campo dell'industria del petrolio.
Entrato nell’Ordine dei Predicatori, è andato in Francia per il noviziato e ha fatto la Professione semplice il 4 ottobre 1981. Ha ottenuto un Diploma post-laurea (DESU) in teologia pratica e comunicazione e poi un Master e Diploma Superiore in Teologia Cattolica (DSTC). È stato ordinato sacerdote il 16 maggio 1987 e poi rientrato a Mosul dove faceva l’archivista conventuale dal 1° gennaio 1988.
È il Direttore e fondatore del Digital Center for Oriental Manuscripts di Mosul (CNMO) dal 9 settembre 1990. È stato membro della Commissione ecumenica dei Vescovi di Nineveh durante alcuni anni dal 10 marzo 2001. È stato Professore di teologia pastorale e comunicazione presso il Babel College (Seminario Caldeo), prima in Baghdad e poi ad Erbil.
P. Najib è stato alcuni mesi negli USA per proseguire la formazione e poi è rientrato ad Ankawa, il quartiere cristiano di Erbil.
È stato molto di aiuto agli sfollati di Mosul e della piana di Nineveh durante la tragedia dei cristiani ad opera dell'ISIS.
Parla la lingua araba, siriaca, francese e inglese.

Monsignor Robert Saeed Jarjis, cui è stata assegnata la sede titolare di Arsamosata, è nato a Baghdad il 23 ottobre 1973. Ha fatto gli studi di medico veterinario all’Università di Baghdad ottenendo la licenza e un master. È entrato nel Seminario patriarcale di Baghdad e ha studiato al Babel College. È stato poi inviato a Roma, al Collegio Urbano, come seminarista, per continuare la sua formazione nella Pontificia Università Urbaniana ed è stato ordinato sacerdote a Roma il 27 aprile 2008 da Papa Benedetto XVI.
Ha studiato poi al Pontificio Istituto Biblico e ha ottenuto la licenza in teologia biblica nel 2001. Rientrato a Baghdad è stato parroco per 7 anni della Parrocchia Santa Maria Assunta nel quartiere al Mansour nella Capitale. Attualmente, da qualche mese, è parroco della Cattedrale San Giuseppe; è collaboratore locale della Nunziatura Apostolica già da qualche anno.
Parla l’arabo, l’italiano, il siriaco e conosce l’inglese.

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mercoledì, gennaio 16, 2019

 

Aliph, the global fund to protect cultural heritage, announces its first projects in Iraq and Mali

By The Art Newspaper
Vincent Noce

Aliph, a Geneva-based global fund to protect cultural heritage in war zones, spearheaded by France and the United Arab Emirates and chaired by the American billionaire Thomas Kaplan, has revealed its first projects. They include the Mosul museum and the Behnam monastery in Iraq, as well as the Tomb of Askia in Gao, Mali. The organisation has also launched a worldwide call for new projects.
Originally proposed at an international conference in Abu Dhabi in 2016, Aliph—named after the first letter of the Arabic alphabet—has raised $60m so far, according to Aliph’s director Valéry Freland, a French diplomat.
For the Mosul museum, Aliph is funding the $480,000 preparatory study for its restoration, with technical support provided by the Louvre and the Smithsonian Institute. It also plans to cover at least part of the restoration works which, according to rough estimates, could amount to $6m-$10m.
South of Mosul, Aliph is financing the $250,000 reconstruction of the Mar Behnam monastery. Partially destroyed by Islamic State in 2015, it formerly housed one of the most important Syriac libraries in the world. Work on the fourth-century Assyrian church, library and tomb, led by the French architect Guillaume de Beaurepaire and the archaeologist Abdelsalam Simaan, with the help of the French NGO Fraternity in Iraq, has now been completed. Freland underscores the symbolic importance of this first accomplishment by the fund in a sacred place of pilgrimage for Syriac Catholics and Yazidis, as well as Muslims.
In Gao, Aliph is financing the $500,000 damage-and-repairs assessment of the 15th-century Askia tomb. After the occupation of Northern Mali by militants in 2012-13, the mosque and necropolis of the Songhai Empire’s leading dynasty have been on the brink of collapse.
New projects can now also be submitted via Aliph’s interactive site (aliph-foundation.org). “They can come from any part of the world and include a wide range of actions, from protection of sites at risk to intangible heritage traditions,” Freland says. “We want to act swiftly,” he says, likening the fund to a “cultural start up”. Management costs must be kept under 10% of the proposed budgets. Aliph also wants to open an emergency response programme for projects under $75,000, which could be immediately initiated by its director.
The fund aims to work with a permanent team of no more than six people
based in Geneva. Prior to joining Aliph, Freland was a councillor of the French Culture Minister before being charged with cultural cooperation in Tunis from 2010 to 2016, at the time of the Arab Spring. He works together with France Desmarais, a Canadian lawyer previously employed by the International Council of Museums.
In the first instance, Aliph is focusing on countries such as Iraq, Mali, Afghanistan and Libya, and is hoping to work in Syria as soon as possible. Apart from fears around safety, Freland says that a major challenge will be the availability of logistics and operational personnel to assist on the ground. His next mission is a global fundraising tour to further boost Aliph’s coffers.
France has already provided $30m, Saudi Arabia $10m, the Emirates $7.5m, Qatar $5m, Luxembourg $2.2m, Morocco $1.5m and China $1m. Three sponsors, the Mellon Foundation, Thomas Kaplan and Jean-Claude Gandur, an oil trader and Swiss collector, contributed a total of $2m.

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Card Sako: un nuovo vescovo a Mosul fonte di speranza per cristiani e musulmani

By Asia News

Per la chiesa irakena e per tutto il Paese “è una giornata di festa” e una conferma “del dinamismo e della vitalità” della comunità cristiana, capace di “affrontare e superare le mille sfide che ogni giorno si presentano”. È quanto sottolinea ad AsiaNews il patriarca caldeo card Louis Raphael Sako, raccontando il clima che si respira alla viglia di due importanti ordinazioni episcopali. Il 18 gennaio infatti il porporato presiederà la consacrazione del padre domenicano Najib Mikhael Moussa, neo arcivescovo di Mosul e di p. Robert Jarjis, vescovo ausiliare di Baghdad (la Babilonia del Caldei). 
Per il primate caldeo la nomina di Mosul ha un significato particolare, perché “è fonte di speranza” per tutta la comunità locale. “Molti musulmani mi hanno telefonato all’indomani della notizia - racconta il porporato - e mi hanno manifestato la loro gioia nell’avere una autorità cristiana in città. Il vescovo deve portare felicità, deve essere fonte di fiducia nel futuro in una realtà che esce a fatica da una devastazione enorme”. 
Per p. Najib, originario proprio di Mosul dove è nato il 9 settembre del 1955, sarà “una sfida enorme e una missione molto grave con una grande responsabilità” ammette il card Sako, il quale aggiunge anche che “potrà fare molto” per il bene della città. “Conosce bene quella realtà - spiega - e può vantare molte amicizie e una rete significativa di rapporti personali” anche con musulmani. 
Durante gli anni di occupazione dello Stato islamico (SI, ex Isis) il padre domenicano (ordinato sacerdote il 16 maggio 1987) ha contribuito all’opera di sostegno agli sfollati di Mosul e della piana di Ninive. Grazie alla sua formazione di archivista, egli ha preservato dalla distruzione parte del patrimonio culturale (cristiano e non) della metropoli del nord. 
“I due fattori sui quali dovrà insistere - sottolinea il primate caldeo - sono la riconciliazione e la fiducia fra la gente della città, perduta a causa delle violenze dell’Isis e dell’ideologia fondamentalista. Al nuovo vescovo il compito di riavviare il dialogo e di incoraggiare gli stessi musulmani alla riconciliazione e alla ricostruzione. Riconciliazione e fiducia, in una prospettiva di pace duratura”. Infine, egli dovrà aiutare i cristiani a “riallacciare i fili della storia a Mosul, far rinascere le chiese e i luoghi di culto, alcuni dei quali sono fra i più antichi e importanti per la Chiesa caldea. Essi sono parte della vita e della storia della città”. 
Assieme a p. Najib verrà consacrato anche p. Robert Jarjis, 45enne con studi di veterinaria alle spalle, per sette anni alla guida della parrocchia di Santa Maria Assunta nel quartiere al Mansour, a Baghdad e, da pochi mesi, parroco della cattedrale di San Giuseppe. “La situazione complessiva in Iraq sta migliorando - spiega mar Sako - e queste nomine ne sono la conferma”. Restano invece i problemi relativi all’economia, la mancanza di lavoro ma al contempo vi sono “note positive, come il ritorno di 16mila famiglie a Mosul e nella piana di Ninive. Nel Kurdistan irakeno, a Erbil, Dohuk e Sulaymaniyah, restano ancora 4mila nuclei ma è solo una minima parte. La vita è tornata”. 
Un’ultima battuta il porporato la riserva all’incontro (nella foto) del 14 gennaio scorso con il ministro iraniano degli Esteri Mohammad Javad Zarif, artefice dell’accordo nucleare poi sconfessato nei mesi scorsi dal presidente Usa Donald Trump, che ha introdotto nuove sanzioni contro Teheran. “Abbiamo parlato di pace, di convivenza - sottolinea il primate caldeo - fra tutte le componenti del Paese, oltre che del ruolo dei cristiani in Iran, che abitavano la terra di Persia prima dell’arrivo dell’islam. Egli è un uomo del dialogo, che sa ascoltare, e non ha nascosto la comune preoccupazione per l’embargo che, come ben sappiamo noi in Iraq, colpisce soprattutto la popolazione civile. Timori condivisi anche dai due vescovi iraniani, di Teheran e Urmia che confermano le preoccupazioni durante gli incontri”.

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martedì, gennaio 15, 2019

 

Iraq: Christian leaders call for more support for the Christians of Nineveh

By Aid to the Church in Need

“Please do not be a silent bystander to our drama. We call on you to support the Christians of Iraq… while there is still time.”
This was the urgent appeal underlying the joint Call for Action signed by the leaders of the three main Christian Churches in the Nineveh Plains region of Iraq and addressed to national governments and other international agencies.
“There is still a lot to do” to facilitate the return of Christians “to their respective ancestral communities from which they were expelled during the ISIS invasion of 2014-17.” So runs the statement signed by the senior representatives of the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syrian Catholic Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church, together with other members of the Niniveh Reconstruction Committee (NRC) which was jointly formed between them for this purpose.
The Call for Action gives the following details of the progress of its work since its creation in 2017: Out of the 13,904 houses registered as in need of renovation, fewer than half, 5,746 have now been renovated while a further 84 are currently undergoing renovation. Only 45.68% of the families who were forced to flee the Nineveh Plains region in 2014 – that is to say 9,060 families – have so far returned. The gist of the statement by the NRC is that the process of reconstruction of these homes has slowed down in the last few months of 2018, for lack of financial support: hence the urgency of their appeal. “Another 2,000 families are eager to return, but have no means to do so”, they state. They underline the fact that the return of these Christians to their former homes “is a matter of great urgency, since the window of time for returning safely is closing. If they do not return now to repossess their homes, others will occupy them. Moreover, the Iraqi government is not inclined to protect empty houses”, the Call to Action concludes.
What these religious leaders are calling upon the international community to help for is “not simply to give people back their homes, but rather a more integral project” which aims “also to restore their sense of human dignity”. They emphasize the essential need for coordinated financial aid, especially in the field of education, to address “the critical situation of trauma”, and “for the creation of economic stability by boosting small businesses through the development of micro-projects and loans” in order to prevent these communities falling into poverty and deciding to emigrate as a result. Equally necessary, they insist, are measures for the “legal protection of Christians and other minorities and their fundamental rights, especially of citizenship”.
The Church leaders also expressed their appreciation for the important role played by the NRC, a committee established with the support of the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International) to jointly oversee the reconstruction programme and the allocation of the financial resources received. Thanks to the NRC, they say, the Christians “instead of being scattered and isolated” have managed to “regain their community life”. They also note that in this region, where “the voice and role of the local Church leaders is stronger than in other regions of Iraq” it is “very important that the various local Churches work closely together, united in diversity”, and add that this ecumenical cooperation has “inspired a great solidarity among the people”.
Nonetheless, they point out at the same time that the pressure on the Churches is “enormous” because “people think that the Church can handle it all easily enough”. That is why “we still need a lot of help”, they conclude. 

Following the liberation of Mosul and the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plains, ACN came up with the idea for a sort of “Marshall plan” – a reconstruction programme for the region, designed to give hope to the uprooted Christian refugees here and encourage them to return to their homes. ACN dedicated around 7 million $ for reconstruction programme oh privat houses.
Since September 2018 ACN has also been outlining a programme of financial aid for the reconstruction of the churches and other ecclesiastical structures in the area.
Another priority of ACN’s work is the coordination of initiatives aimed at alerting politicians and international bodies to the need for a long-term development programme for the Christians of the Middle East. And the hard work and commitment of the charity has borne good fruits, among other things in the recent announcement of aid programmes by the German and Austrian governments for the reconstruction of the area. And more recently also by the signing of a new measure on the part of the US government for the allocation of aid to the victims of the genocide in Iraq and Syria.

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giovedì, gennaio 10, 2019

 

Sacerdote caldeo: un nuovo anno di rinascita per Mosul


Se il 2014 è stato “l’anno nero” con la fuga del vescovo, dei sacerdoti, dei fedeli in seguito all’ascesa dello Stato islamico (SI, ex Isis), il 2019 che è appena iniziato sarà l’anno “della rinascita, delle sfide, pastorali e sociali, del ritorno dei profughi”. È quanto racconta ad AsiaNews don Paolo Thabit Mekko, responsabile della comunità cristiana a Karamles, nella piana di Ninive, nel nord dell’Iraq, a conclusione delle “gremite e partecipate” celebrazioni di Natale. “Bisogna far rinascere la comunità - spiega il sacerdote - dare un senso alle loro vite, garantire un lavoro e andare oltre le preoccupazioni”. 
Le festività natalizie “si sono svolte con regolarità”, perché “ormai la regione ha raggiunto un certo grado di stabilità” a un anno e mezzo dalla sconfitta (almeno militare) del movimento jihadista. “Sono elementi - aggiunge don Paolo - che infondono ottimismo, mostrano che il momento buio è alle spalle. Le chiese a Karemles, Qaraqosh, in molte zone della piana di Ninive erano addobbate, per certi versi si respirava un’atmosfera ancora più bella del periodo precedente Daesh [acronimo arabo per l’Isis]”. 
“La nascita di Cristo - prosegue il sacerdote caldeo - è un momento di pace, di gioia e l’augurio è che si possa rappresentare un nuovo inizio. Certo, le preoccupazioni restano, ma la nomina di un nuovo vescovo a Mosul [il padre domenicano Najib Mikhael Moussa] proprio in occasione delle feste di Natale rappresenta un elemento di forza, di rinascita pastorale e spirituale”. 
Dopo anni di violenza e terrore, nella metropoli del nord dell’Iraq la vita sta tornando a una lenta normalità. “Avrei voluto celebrare una messa in città - confessa il sacerdote - ma per problemi organizzativi e di tempo non è stato possibile. Troppe celebrazioni, troppe famiglie nella piana di Ninive che attendevano di partecipare alle funzioni. Inoltre, diverse famiglie che sono tornate a vivere di recente in città hanno preferito trascorrere le feste con parenti e amici rimasti nei villaggi”. 
La comunità cristiana vive con attesa e crescente partecipazione la cerimonia di consacrazione del nuovo arcivescovo, in programma il 18 gennaio, cui seguirà una settimana più tardi (il 25) l’insediamento a Mosul. “Il padre domenicano - racconta don Paolo - ha ancora parte del lavoro da concludere, prima di trasferirsi in pianta stabile. In questi anni egli ha contribuito, con la propria opera, a salvaguardare il patrimonio letterario e culturale, cristiano e non, dalla devastazione jihadista dell’Isis”. 
Fra le priorità del prossimo futuro la “sistemazione degli edifici della diocesi, partendo dalle chiese molte delle quali non hanno nemmeno un tetto per ripararle dalla pioggia o una porta per impedire che qualcuno getti l’immondizia al loro interno”. “Sul piano pastorale, si potrebbe cominciare - aggiunge - con alcune messe dal forte valore simbolico, rafforzare le relazioni con le autorità locali, i leader religiosi, i portavoce dei gruppi etnici e della società civile”.
Con il nuovo vescovo, sottolinea don Paolo, si dovrà poi affrontare il tema del lavoro, offrire opportunità di impiego per quanti tornano in città, creare da zero un centro che sia punti di riferimento per i fedeli, pensare a un piano pastorale. Sono passaggi impegnativi, che richiederanno tempo, ma ora bisogna cominciare a raccogliere i frutti di quanto si sta seminando. Dopo la grande fuga del 2014, ora la zona sta tornando a popolarsi e la presenza cristiana è un elemento visibile a Mosul e l’identità cristiana un fattore essenziale per la piana di Ninive.
Anche nei rapporti con i musulmani, la nuova Mosul potrebbe segnare una rottura rispetto al passato. “La città - spiega don Paolo - è stata liberata non solo fisicamente, ma anche sul piano dell’ideologia. Molti di quelli che promuovevano l’oscurantismo sono andati via. Le persone vogliono respirare aria nuova, chiedono dialogo e modernità. Ne è prova il fatto che alle celebrazioni per il capodanno [il sacerdote ha pubblicato alcuni video sulla propria pagina Facebook] hanno partecipato famiglie cristiane e musulmane, che si sono riunite attorno all’albero nella pubblica piazza, un Babbo Natale ha distribuito doni a tutti, trascorso alcune ore in allegria”.

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martedì, gennaio 08, 2019

 

Polemiche su vendite e demolizioni di chiese. La risposta del Patriarcato caldeo

By Fides

Le notizie sulla vendita di due chiese a Baghdad stanno alimentando polemiche che coinvolgono le comunità cristiane locali, facendo emergere anche contrasti tra gerarchie ecclesiali e cristiani impegnati in politica. Dopo le manifestazioni di protesta organizzate contro un progetto di ristrutturazione urbana che implicherebbe anche l'abbattimento della chiesa caldea dedicata alla Divina Sapienza, nel quartiere di Adhamiya (vedi Fides 2/1/2019), un nuovo caso controverso riguarda la ventilata vendita e successiva demolizione che minaccerebbe una chiesa siro-cattolica nella parte centrale di Baghdad, nei pressi del mercato Al Shorjh. Secondo notizie apparse anche sul website ankawa.com, l'edificio di culto sarebbe in procinto di essere venduto e demolito per fare posto ad un'area commerciale. Sulla base di queste indiscrezioni, il parlamentare cristiano Immanuel Khoshaba ha annunciato che lui e i suoi colleghi titolari dei 5 seggi parlamentari riservati ai cristiani, sono determinati a chiedere e avviare una Indagine parlamentare sulla vendita di chiese e proprietà cristiane sia a Baghdad che nelle altre aree del Paese.
Il politico cristiano chiama in causa il dipartimento per le dotazioni religiose (Waqf) che si occupa delle proprietà appartenenti ai gruppi religiosi minoritari, visto che le compravendite di tali proprietà possono avvenire solo con l'autorizzazione di tale istituzione governativa.
L'ex parlamentare cristiano Joseph Saliwa è intervenuto sulla questione usando toni duri, e accusando il Waqf e le gerarchie ecclesiastiche di essere coinvolte nella vendita di proprietà che hanno generato guadagni di cui è rimasta ignota la destinazione finale. Una nota diffusa dal Patriarcato caldeo ha risposto alle affermazioni denigratorie lanciate da Saliwa: in tale messaggio, si definiscono “vergognose” le accuse di comportamento mafioso rivolte anche a ecclesiastici impegnati nell'aiuto ai rifugiati, annunciando azioni legali contro l'ex parlamentare iracheno.

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lunedì, gennaio 07, 2019

 

Pope Francis' address to Diplomatic Corps

By Vatican News

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO THE MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS

Monday, 7 January 2019


Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,
         The beginning of a new year allows us to interrupt for a few moments the frenetic pace of our daily activities in order to review the events of past months and to reflect on the challenges facing us in the near future.  I thank you for your numerous presence at this annual gathering, which provides a welcome opportunity for us to exchange cordial greetings and good wishes with one another. Through you, I would like to convey to the peoples whom you represent my closeness and my prayerful hope that the year just begun will bring peace and well-being to each member of the human family.
         I am most grateful to the Ambassador of Cyprus, His Excellency Mr George Poulides, for the gracious words of greeting he addressed to me in your name for the first time as Dean of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See.  To each of you I would like to express my especial appreciation for your daily efforts to consolidate relations between your respective Countries and Organizations and the Holy See, all the more so through the signing or ratification of new accords.
         I think in particular of the ratification of the Framework Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Benin relating to the Legal Status of the Catholic Church in Benin, and the signing of the Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of San Marino regarding the Teaching of Catholic Religion in Public Schools.
         In the multilateral sphere, the Holy See has also ratified the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education.  Last March it adhered to the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, an initiative aimed at showing how culture can be at the service of peace and a means of unification between different European societies, thus fostering concord among peoples.  This is a token of particular esteem for an Organization that this year celebrates the seventieth anniversary of its foundation.  The Holy See has cooperated with the Council of Europe for many decades and recognizes its specific role in the promotion of human rights, democracy and legality in an area that would embrace Europe as a whole.  Finally, on 30 November last, the Vatican City State was admitted to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).
         Fidelity to the spiritual mission based on the command that the Lord Jesus gave to the Apostle Peter, “Feed my lambs” (Jn 21:15), impels the Pope – and consequently the Holy See – to show concern for the whole human family and its needs, including those of the material and social order.  Nonetheless, the Holy See has no intention of interfering in the life of States; it seeks instead to be an attentive listener, sensitive to issues involving humanity, out of a sincere and humble desire to be at the service of every man and woman.
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venerdì, dicembre 21, 2018

 

Buon Natale e Buon Anno Nuovo

Edo Bri'cho o Rish d'Shato Brich'to

عيد ميلاد سعيد وسنة ميلادية مباركة

Happy Christmas and Happy New Year

Feliz Navidad y Feliz Año Nuevo

Feliz Natal e Feliz Ano Novo


Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année

Fröhliche Weihnachten und Gutes Neues Jahr

God Jul och Gott Nytt År

By Baghdadhope*

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giovedì, dicembre 20, 2018

 

Due sacerdoti per la chiesa caldea negli USA

By Baghdadhope*
Foto Patriarcato Caldeo. Da sinistra Padre Simon Esshaki,
Padre Daniel Shaba e padre Peter Patros
Si è svolta ieri nella cattedrale cattolica caldea di San Pietro a El Cajon, California, la cerimonia per l'ordinazione di due nuovi sacerdoti: Daniel Shaba (1994) e Peter Patros. (1994)
A celebrare la funzione il vescovo dell'Eparchia di San Pietro (USA ovest) Mons. Emmanuel Hana Shaleta. Tra i partecipanti anche il vescovo emerito dell'Eparchia, Mons. Sarhad Y. Jammo.   Entrambi i sacerdoti erano stati ordinati diaconi lo scorso 13 luglio. 
A parte le date di nascita nessuna altra informazione biografica sui due neo-sacerdoti è stata data dal sito del patriarcato caldeo. 

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USAID to partner with Hungary to help Middle East Christians

By Crux
Christopher White

One week after President Donald Trump signed into law a new bill committing aid to genocide victims in Iraq and Syria, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced it has signed an agreement with the Government of Hungary to coordinate relief to Middle Eastern communities devastated by ISIS.
The Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act was signed into law on December 11 after years of lobbying by faith-based groups for greater U.S. support for the region.

The new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), signed by USAID Acting Deputy Administrator David Moore and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Levente Magyar of the Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians of the Government of Hungary, was signed on Tuesday.
In a statement, USAID said “The MOU with Hungary is part of USAID’s continuing effort to expand its partnerships to help endangered, displaced, and persecuted religious and ethnic minorities return home and restore their communities across the Middle East, particularly in parts of Northern Iraq liberated from the tyranny of ISIS.”
“The MOU is intended to increase cooperation through sharing knowledge, experience, and resources to develop projects in fields that include private-sector growth, housing, service-delivery, conflict-mitigation, religious freedom and other human rights,” it continued.
This week’s MOU follows another agreement signed between USAID and the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest fraternal organization that has long been involved in helping rebuild Iraq. Following the rise of ISIS, the number of Christians in Iraq is now below 200,000, down from 1.4 million in 2002 and 500,000 in 2013.
(The Knights of Columbus are a principal sponsor of Crux.)
“USAID looks forward to working with the Government of Hungary to help advance religious freedom and pluralism,” the statement concluded.

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Eamon Martin: 'With a lump in my throat I wished him a happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year'

By The Irish News
Archbishop Eamon Martin 

ONE month ago, on 'Red Wednesday', the church buildings in Armagh were lit up in red as we gathered in solidarity with Christians and other minorities who are persecuted for their religious beliefs.
Their suffering often goes unnoticed - most of us go on about our Christmas shopping and preparations unaware of the injustice and discrimination which affects many of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world.
Last week, I travelled to northern Iraq with Caoimhe de Barra and Sean Farrell of Trócaire to meet families who in 2014 were terrorised by Isis from their homes in Mosul and the Nineveh plain.
Thankfully some of them have been able to return to their homes and villages, but others are still uncertain and afraid to do so, deterred not least by the presence of unexploded landmines.
In one town, Batnaya, the scale of destruction brought tears to my eyes.
Family homes are burned and looted, shops and businesses lie ruined; church and convent buildings have been destroyed and daubed with hateful graffiti.
Even the town's graveyard is desecrated - crosses and gravestones smashed to pieces.
But the human spirit is strong, made even stronger by faith and by an outpouring of human compassion and charity.
In nearby Telescof I met Fr Salar Boudagh and members of his parish council. When we arrived they were putting up the Christmas tree and crib in the church compound.
I thought of those words from Isaiah which we hear at this time of the year: "The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light."
Sadly, despite reconstruction and the help of foreign aid, their numbers - and those of other minorities like the Yazidi Muslims - are in steep decline since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of al-Qaida.
In Erbil in northern Iraq, we met with Archbishop Bashar Warda, a Redemptorist who learned English in Dundalk.
Their immediate response to the crisis was to set up refugee camps on the church grounds to provide shelter, food and clothing for the displaced families.
With the help of Trócaire and other agencies he opened a healthcare clinic and provided school places.
He maintains that long-term dignity can only be restored by rebuilding livelihoods and increasing job opportunities.
His people are highly skilled but they are naturally nervous about investing in anything beyond simple survival.
Christmas reminds them of the sadness of family separation, but it also brings a glimmer of joy and hope for new beginnings.
At the parish centre the children's choir was arriving to learn Christmas carols, and at the new Catholic University of Erbil young people spoke to us about their vision and dreams for the future.
At the seminary 14 young men are studying for the priesthood. They have no illusions about the challenging vocation to which God is calling them.
Priests in Iraq have to be true shepherds for their people - not only spiritual and community leaders, but also courageous peace-builders and reconcilers.
We spoke about Fr Ragheed Ganni, a former student of the Irish College in Rome, who was martyred after celebrating Mass in Mosul in 2007.
Fr Ragheed's attackers shouted as they killed him: "Why are you still here? We told you to close the church."
The Christian communities in the plains of Nineveh are among the earliest in the world, going back to the time of the apostles Thomas and Thaddaeus in the first century.
They still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. They do not wish to close their churches and leave their ancient homelands.
Theirs is a story of hope, triumphing over adversity. One elderly man told me he would be talking to his grandchildren - in Chicago and Brisbane - via Skype on Christmas Day.
"No doubt they will ask me to come and join them," he says. "But I'm not leaving. This is where we are from and our people before us. I will die here and be buried with my family. How can we leave now?"
With a lump in my throat I wished him, and his family, a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

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Iraq Pulse US genocide law triggers mixed feelings among Iraqis

By Al Monitor
Saad Salloum


A new US law designed to protect religious minorities and punish the Islamic State for its atrocities is getting a mixed reception from Iraqis, who are uncertain about how it will be applied on the ground.
President Donald Trump signed the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act into law Dec. 11. The law instructs the federal government to prioritize assistance for religious and ethnic minorities that have been targeted for "genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes." It also makes available financial and technical assistance to nongovernmental organizations and other entities in Iraq to help conduct criminal investigations, develop local investigative skills and collect evidence.
Murad Ismael, the executive director of the Yazidi rights group Yazda, praised the Trump administration’s support for religious minorities as an “excellent principle.”
“The Yazidi community is pleased by how hope has traveled from the shores of the US to a small persecuted minority such as the Yazidis, who suffered harshly at the hands of ISIS [the Islamic State],” he told Al-Monitor.
Ismael, who is based in Texas, stood by President Trump as he signed the bill earlier this month. He said Yazda remains committed to restoring normal life and hope for Yazidis and all minorities four years after the genocide.
Likewise, Kamel Zumaya, the vice president of external relations at the pan-Christian Shlomo Organization for Documentation, hailed the passing of the law as the culmination of collective efforts by groups like the US-based Knights of Columbus, In Defense of Christians and the International Association of Genocide Scholars. He said Iraqis also played a key role.
“There have been efforts by high-profile Iraqi figures,” Zumaya told Al-Monitor. “People such as Bashar Warda, the archbishop of the Chaldean Church in Erbil, as well as political institutions representing Iraq’s Christians and human rights defenders who played a significant role in highlighting the suffering of the victims of the genocide, both on a local and international level.”
Zumaya stressed that the federal government in Baghdad and the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government should both now enact legislation to bring justice to the victims and help displaced people return to their hometowns.
Other groups, however, bristled at the new law’s focus on Yazidis and Christians. The act specifically highlights declarations by former secretaries of state John Kerry and Rex Tillerson that the Islamic State committed genocide against Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims, and calls for special attention to groups “whom the Secretary of State has determined ISIS has committed genocide.”
US-based Mandaean activist Nazar al-Haidar, for example, told Al-Monitor that his gnostic community is not explicitly covered by the law.
“Ninety percent of the Mandaean minorities have fled Iraq because of the same dangers and threats that haunted the Christians and Yazidis,” said Haidar, who serves as the deputy director of the Council of Iraqi Minorities. “Christians, Yazidis and Mandaeans were all the same to [the Islamic State]. Those three minorities were simply firewood kindling the Sunni-Shiite conflict.”
Haidar added that the lack of international lobbies representing Mandaeans is not a reason to exclude them from the Iraqi cultural landscape. He expressed hope that US policymakers will take his community into account, considering that only 60,000 Mandaeans remain scattered across 20 countries worldwide, with 10% of them living in Iraq.
Others have expressed concerns about the law’s compatibility with UN policies addressing the challenges of Iraq’s religious minorities in light of President Trump’s unilateral policies. For example, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution September 2017 calling for the formation of an investigative team to support local efforts to hold the Islamic State to account by collecting and storing evidence of its crimes.
“It is imperative that this bill, as well as the projects related to and resulting from it, are not made a part of the international, regional, and local conflicts,” said Ali al-Bayati, a member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights. “Otherwise, minorities will be, yet again, a victim of the international power struggle in the region, especially since the current US stance is to move away from the UN and take individual steps and decisions. This will not be in the best interests of countries and nations that are dealing with international and regional conflict, such as Iraq.”
The concern that minorities will once again become unwitting pawns in a multinational struggle for influence reflects the Iraqi government's inability to meet the needs of Iraqi minorities — the very reason representatives of those groups sought US help in the first place.

Saad Salloum is an Iraqi academic and journalist specializing in Iraqi minorities and human rights. He heads the research department in the College of Political Sciences of Mustansiriya University and is one of the founding members of the Iraqi Council for Interfaith Dialogue. His publications focus on Iraqi minorities and include the books "Minorities in Iraq" (2013), "Christians in Iraq" (2014) and "Policies and Ethnic Groups in Iraq" (2014).

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mercoledì, dicembre 19, 2018

 

The New Threat to Iraq's Christians

By Real Clear Politics
Benedict Kiely

In March of 2017, with the battle for control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, raging just miles away, I was driven into the town of Karamles, recently liberated from ISIS control. Together with a journalist friend, the parish priest of the town and an American adviser to the Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, we walked among the ruined buildings surveying the results of ISIS occupation, which included a burnt church.
Virtually none of the former inhabitants had yet returned. There was nothing in the way of functioning infrastructure -- no water or electricity -- and many of the buildings were still booby-trapped with IEDs. The parish priest’s own house, intact because it had been used as an ISIS base, also had a bomb left inside it, which was discovered and disarmed when he returned.
Before ISIS, Karamles had some 10,000 residents, most of them Christians. Father Thabet Habib, the enthusiastic pastor, was determined that they should return and that the town would rebuild and thrive. As we left, the U.S. adviser told me to turn and look at the large metal structure that formed an official entrance to the town. Three flags flew from it. One was the flag of the Iraqi army, the second was that of the local Christian militia, the NPU. But it was the third banner that he wanted me to notice: the flag of Ali, the fourth Caliph of Islam, revered by Shia Muslims, and the official emblem of one of the Shia “Popular Mobilization Units.”
Why, he asked, was that flag flying as there were virtually no Shabak, the ethnic Shia population, living in this Christian town. Fr. Thabet interpreted its ominous significance: “The next attack on Christians,” he said, “will come from the Shabak.”
I returned to Karamles this past May, and much of Fr. Thabet’s positive dream is coming true. Due in great part to the generous help of the U.S.- based Knights of Columbus, the town is coming back to life, with houses and infrastructure being restored and families moving back. Many challenges remain, however, principally the need for jobs and security. At the entrance to the town is the ancient monastery of St. Barbara, desecrated and used as an ISIS base, complete with large tunnels. It has been restored and celebrations have resumed.
So far, the issue with the Shabak in Karamles has stayed relatively calm. But not so in the town of Bartella, liberated from ISIS in October 2016. It had a pre-ISIS population of 30,000 people, the majority of whom were Syriac Christians.
I have known the pastor of Bartella, Fr. Behnam Benoka, since I first visited Iraq in early 2015, when all of the Christians of the Nineveh Plain, some 120,000 people, had been driven out by ISIS. Fr. Benoka was then running a medical clinic in one of the largest refugee camps in Erbil, dealing with families traumatized after having fled their towns and villages with only the clothes on their backs. Fr. Benoka, widely regarded as one of the most able and effective Christian leaders in Iraq -- he speaks multiple languages, including excellent English -- was the priest telephoned by Pope Francis in December 2014 to share his concern for all the persecuted Christians terrorized by the Islamist terrorists.
In May of this year, I walked through the Old City of Mosul, perhaps the first Western priest to ever do so, accompanied by armed Iraqi police. Much of the Old City was still dangerous, with IEDs that had yet to be cleared and, sadly, many unrecovered bodies. However, driving into the town of Bartella, I felt a much greater sense of oppression than I’d felt in Mosul just hours before. Those in the town have a feeling of being surrounded. Meeting with Fr. Benoka in his parish, he confirmed my feelings.
Bartella, a Christian town for centuries, was controlled by the Shabak militia’s “Brigade 30,” one of the Hashd al-Shaabi PMU forces backed and resourced by Iran. Fifteen years ago, U.S. military forces assisted in settling some 2,000 Shabak families from Mosul and placed them in and around Bartella. That was already a considerable change to the demography, but after the entire Christian population fled from ISIS in 2014, it could be argued that Bartella’s fate was sealed.
Last week I spoke with Fr. Benoka for over 40 minutes on FaceTime. A few weeks ago, the Shabak militia blocked the road to his church, preventing his congregation from attending. They also strafed the church with gunfire. Fr. Benoka told me that this was the second time his church had been attacked in the last nine months. One of the militiamen held a handgun to the priest’s face when he went out to demand that they clear the street and stop shooting.
Later, in a provocation unreported in any media, the same hostile militia went to Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town on the Nineveh Plain, and menaced the people living there. Fr. Benoka told me that the Shabak want to drive the Christians from the area. “They are the new ISIS,” he told me. “We are really vulnerable.”
The Iraqi army controls the entire Nineveh Plain, at least in theory, but it has failed to intervene. This is unsurprising since the PMU militias were legalized by the Iraqi parliament in 2016 and are, effectively, an army within the army. It is also important to note that Kurdish forces, the Peshmerga, are not allowed to enter much of the territory of the Al-Hamdinya District, which critically includes Qaraqosh, thus leaving the Hashd al-Shaabi in effective control.
Since the removal of ISIS control of the Nineveh Plain (“defeat” is perhaps an unwise word as ISIS attacks are continuing on an almost weekly basis), the area -- which has had a Christian population since the time of the Apostles -- is now described as “the disputed territories.”
Although never ethnically Kurdish, the Kurds are making claims to the land, as are the Shabak and, of course, the central government in Baghdad. In the middle, with no support, no protection, and no influence, is the Christian population.
On Dec. 11, President Trump signed the Iraq and Syria Genocide and Relief Accountability Act of 2018, the long-promised legislation authorizing U.S. aid to commun
ities being targeted with genocide or war crimes. Already, assistance is beginning to arrive, helping rebuild towns destroyed by ISIS. Another positive development is the presence of Max Primorac, USAID special representative for minority assistance, who is on the ground in Erbil. Primorac is highly regarded locally as someone who is deeply committed to helping religious minorities under threat in the region.
There is much to applaud and commend about the new proactive polices of the Trump administration, especially in contrast to the frustrating indifference of the Obama administration. Yet, a real and present threat remains in spite of the rebuilding efforts. Unless the security situation is addressed, which means powerful U.S. pressure applied to the Iraqi government to stop the ethnic cleansing of Christians by the Shabak and Shia militias, Fr. Thabet’s ominous words in Karamles will come true: “The next attack on Christians will come from the Shabak.”
Fr. Benedict Kiely is the founder of Nasarean.org, a charity helping the persecuted Christians of the Middle East.

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