giovedì, luglio 07, 2011


Northern Iraq – where Christians are a bridge to Islam

"In northern Iraq, Christians are a bridge to Islam. Hence the West must do more for them."

These are the words of Professor Hans Hollerweger, one of the cofounders of the "Initiative Christian Orient" and until 1995 a professor for liturgical studies in Linz, Austria.
He was speaking to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the situation of Christians in Iraq.
Whereas Christians in the south of the country, in Baghdad, and even in Mosul, must fear for their lives, in Iraqi Kurdistan they can live safely, insisted Professor Hollerweger, during a recent visit to the headquarters of the charity in Germany.
Two thirds of the Christians in northern Iraq belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church, while the remaining third are either Syrian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox or Armenian Christians.
"These are ancient churches that have always been there and which for centuries have cultivated an overwhelmingly peaceful relationship with their Islamic neighbours", said Professor Hollerweger. Now Islamic extremists were trying to destroy this coexistence, he said, whereas Kurdish representatives expressly wished the Christians to remain in the country.
Professor Hollerweger, who has been committed to the cause of the Christians in the Orient for over 20 years, is a regular visitor to Iraq.
He maintains that the West is not doing enough for the Christians in the country and advocates that it is the Christians who can build bridges between the different religions and ethnic groups.
He believes that the Western media report one-sidedly on Iraq and virtually ignore the positive developments in the North.
According to Professor Hollerweger, in this area of Iraq, which is under Kurdish control, there are several hundred thousand Christians. The local administration has been actively involved in the resettlement of the Christian population who were expelled by Saddam Hussein.
Since 2003, in the Chaldean Catholic diocese of Zakho alone, in the Dohuk governorate, no fewer than 16 villages have been rebuilt, he told ACN.
However, many people are unable to find work and are therefore looking for a way of leaving Iraq. "Agriculture could provide a way out for many people, but there is a lack of agricultural machinery, tractors, seed; in fact everything", the Austrian professor added. He further emphasised that help was urgently needed to give the many young Christians some hope for the future.
Aid to the Church in Need has been supporting the Iraqi Christians for years. According to estimates there are still around 300,000 living on the Euphrates and Tigris. ACN helps among other things with the building, or rebuilding, of churches and other Church institutions, as well as helping with the formation of priests, religious and other pastoral workers. The charity also supports projects in the field of the youth and family apostolate, whether in the North or elsewhere within Iraq. The overall objective is to make it possible for the Iraqi Christians and their communities to find a secure future in their homeland.

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