venerdì, dicembre 04, 2015

 

Opening of the Holy Door for the tiny Christian community in Basra

By Baghdadhope*

Interview by Baghdadhope to the Chaldean Archbishop of Basra, Mgr. Habib Jajou Al Naufali,  about the situation of the Christian community of Basra.

Following the tragic events that affected the Christians of Mosul and of the Plain of Nineveh much has been written and said about their fate, as it was in the past for those living in Baghdad. Less is known, however, about the Christian community in Basra. Can you tell something about it? Can you give us some data? 
“There are almost 400 Christian families still living in Basra. 180 of them belong to the Chaldean catholic church and live in Basra and in Al-Amarah, a city in the governorate of Maysan, 120 belong to the Syriac catholic church, 10 to the Syriac Orthodox one, 72 to the Armenian church, mostly the Orthodox one, 9 to the Assyrian church and 9 to the Evangelical church. Every denomination still has at least one church, only the Assyrian faithful have no church in the city and attend the Chaldean church.
"How does the Christian minority community live in the predominantly Shia south of Iraq? Thanks to this homogeneity and the complete control of the area by the central government it seems now a much safer area to live in compared to other areas of the country. 
“South Iraq is 90% Shia but we, as Christians, have a good relationship with the population even if there are sometimes cases in which Christian families face a bad treatment and therefore decide to flee from Basra."
 Does the Iraqi central government/Basra local government help the Christians, for example supporting poor families, renewing churches or else?
 “Unfortunately, there is no help from the government but some individuals are helping us occasionally. Some help was provided until 2013, but after the events related to ISIS in 2014 we had no support to the poor people or to the church. Of course every church has its pastors and I can speak only for the Chaldean church. In any case it is worth mentioning that electricity and water are free for all churches, and that during any religious celebration security is assured by 4 policemen for each church sent by the Government.” 
How do the Christians in Basra feel about ISIS? Do the events related to ISIS affected the migration of Christians from the city?
 “Even if Basra Christians live far from the areas controlled by ISIS they are upset about what happened and about their relatives’ fate who fled from the Nineveh Plain villages. Our Diocese welcomed 73 families from there. About how the Basra Christians feel I would say that the 10/15% of them feel isolated from their relatives who live outside Iraq and so they do not know what to do: stay or migrate! "
Are you optimistic/pessimistic about the future of the Christian community in Basra? 
“I am partly pessimistic for many reasons, but the most important one is that Christians need the Christian social life that the current situation doesn’t permit.”
The Year of Mercy will begin on December 8 with the opening of the Holy Door in Rome that will be followed by the openings of the Holy Door in every diocese of the world. Will there be a similar celebration in Basra too?

"Yes, there will be a symbolic celebration on December 6. Some faithful asked for my help in travelling to Rome and I will try to do something for them."

What about Christmas? How will Basra Christian community spend that Holy time?

"Diocese’s groups will start on next week the celebration of Christmas. There will be spiritual retreats, exhibitions, pastoral visits, biblical classes, plays. Everyone will do his best to celebrate the special time of Christmas in the best way."    

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