"La situazione sta peggiorando. Gridate con noi che i diritti umani sono calpestati da persone che parlano in nome di Dio ma che non sanno nulla di Lui che è Amore, mentre loro agiscono spinti dal rancore e dall'odio.
Gridate: Oh! Signore, abbi misericordia dell'Uomo."

Mons. Shleimun Warduni
Baghdad, 19 luglio 2014

23 dicembre 2016

By Baghdadhope*

Will the pope finally visit Iraq once IS is defeated?

By Al Monitor
Adnan Abu Zeed

During his visit to the Vatican on Dec. 3, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari invited Pope Francis to visit Iraq, noting that the best time to visit would be once the Islamic State (IS) is defeated and displaced Christians are returning to their homes. 
Other Iraqi officials have brought up such a visit in the past, such as the undersecretary of the Ministry of Health and Environment, Jassim al-Falahi, who told the media in June that “Iraq was preparing for a planned visit by the pope.”
In December 2014, Francis said that he wanted to visit Iraq, but that this was not possible at that time in light of the security situation.
Also in 2014, when Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani visited Francis, he noted that the pope had agreed to visit the KRG, given the large number of displaced Christians it hosts.
Ahmad Jamal, a spokesman for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, told Al-Monitor over the phone, “Pope Francis is invited to visit Iraq, and we reiterate this invitation at every opportunity we get when meeting Vatican officials. The pope has not once rejected our invitation, and he will visit us at the earliest appropriate opportunity.”
He added, “The pope’s visit would reflect the Vatican’s support in urging the international community to help Iraq eliminate the terrorism that killed many and forced others into displacement, especially the Christians of Mosul, which had been occupied by IS since June 2014. Iraq hopes the Vatican will set a date for the visit as soon as possible, and the Iraqi Foreign Ministry will continue its efforts to make this visit happen.”
A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office, Saad al-Hadithi, told Al-Monitor, “The government is looking forward to the pope's visiting Iraq soon because it would deepen the relationship between Iraq and the Vatican on the one hand, and would be a great support for Iraq’s war against IS on the other.”
This visit has yet to be set, despite many invitations by several officials over the years, including Chaldean patriarch Mar Louis Raphael I Sako, who said in November 2011, “We really wish our beloved Pope Francis would visit Iraq.”
The situation in Iraq and the Middle East has captured the attention of religious authorities at the Vatican; this is particularly the case as a result of the acts of violence that have affected the Christians since 2003 in Iraq.
The Vatican expressed opposition to the first Gulf War that followed the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Pope Saint John Paul II wrote a letter to then-President Saddam Hussein in 1991, urging him to “take courageous steps to withdraw from Kuwait.”
The Vatican’s interest in Iraq mainly focused on the historic city of Ur in the southern Dhi Qar province, where the Prophet Abraham was born, according to the Bible.
In February 2011, news surfaced about a potential visit to Ur by Pope Benedict XVI, and the Ministry of Tourism approached parliament to ensure the success of preparations for this visit.
In November 2013, Iraq and the Vatican agreed on the need to build advanced relations of mutual respect in order to confront the common challenges posed by extremism and terrorism.
Although the pope has not yet visited Iraq, a delegation from the Vatican held Mass on Dec.14, 2013, in the city of Ur, headed by Monsignor Andreatta, head of the Vatican pilgrimage organization, during which he called on people to perform a pilgrimage to the ancient city of Ur.
On Nov. 23, Francis prayed for the Iraqi people suffering under war and expressed his hope that peace would prevail. “I voice my solidarity with the people and Iraq and the residents of Mosul in particular,” he said. IS invaded Mosul in June 2014 and has controlled it ever since, resulting in the displacement of its residents, particularly Christians.
On Nov. 17, Francis brought up the Christian “martyrs” in Iraq and Syria who have remained faithful and sacrificed their lives for their religion.
The relationship between Iraq and the Vatican is heading toward further cooperation. The new papal ambassador in Iraq, Alberto Ortega Martin, met with Iraqi President Fuad Massum on Nov. 19, 2015, and called for reopening Christian schools in Iraq.
Meanwhile, a member of Dhi Qar’s provincial council, Dakhel Radi, told Al-Monitor, “If Pope Francis visits the city of Ur, it will most definitely turn into an international tourist attraction, especially after IS’ imminent defeat and its elimination from Iraq.”
Journalist Walid al-Tai told Al-Monitor, “The people of Dhi Qar hope the pope's visit can finally happen because it would give the impression that Iraq is a safe country, and thus Christians from all over the world could visit the city of Ur, without having any security concerns, in light of the prevailing terrorism in several [other] countries in the Middle East.”

22 dicembre 2016

Chaldean priests serving in Europe met in Rome

By Den Katolske Kirke
Rooni Yousif

Under the title "strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:32) an extraordinary meeting, with the Chaldean priests serving in Europe, was called by the new Apostolic Visitor to Chaldeans in Europe Bishop Saad Sirop for the period from 5th to 9th December 2016. The new Apostolic Visitor was appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis after he was nominated by the Chaldean Synod held recently in Erbil, Iraq.
Four of the priests apologized from coming because of other commitments which could not be cancelled.
The meeting was held in a brotherly manner immersed in the spirit of love and love of service.
After a short welcome speech and after the evening prayer, the Apostolic Visitor presented his appointment papers and his working plan of service in order to "uphold our Chaldean Church in Europe and to gather our children scattered in Europe."
The Bishop asked us to be spiritual, ecclesial and pastoral and original refarences  in these circumstances in which we live. Then the Bishop added that he wishes us to count him as a brother priest and as a father bishop, to help, encourage and to assist us in our work. He also said in his speech that he will give us his full cooperation, integration and activation..Then he gave us a spiritual  lecture which took us  to the depth of the birth of the baby Jesus, and how to understand and live the mystery of incarnation.
The daily meetings were full with prayers, morning and evening in the beautiful Chaldean liturgy and hymns. The morning Holy Mass was held by H.E. Bishop Sirop and two priests.
On the second day, we were visited by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the head of Eastern Churches Council, his personal secretary and Fr. Anton, the priest responsible for the Chaldean Church file in the Council. Cardinal Sandry read the Appointment Letter and then asked each and every priest for a short resume about himself and his work in Europe.
The Cardinal praised the Chaldean people and priests in Europe for their good work and wished that their torch of faith remains glowing. The Cardinal urges the Chaldean people and priests to unite and support their leaders with love and to reject all types of differences, splits and those who incite them and to work hand in hand in order to uphold the message of our saver Jesus Christ. A  picture was taken with all present, and then the Cardinal greeted us farewell with a fatherly love.
The meetings continued in a way where each priest presented his Mission, its duties, expectations, activities difficulties faced in conveying the message of  our faith to the people.
On the third day, after the morning prayer and Mass, we went to the Vatican ( Pope Paul 6th hall ) to see and hear H.H. Pope Francis in his Weekly General Public Meeting. His Holiness talked about the hope which gives pleasure, pleasure of meeting our Lord Jesus Christ. 
During His Holiness’s speech, he welcomed the Chaldean Bishop and Priests present in the hall, so without any pre arrangement, we started chanting in, Chaldean Language, an ancient hymn which is to ask His Holiness for his blessings and his prayers. Every thing went quite in the hall during our prayer and His Holiness Listened carefully with joy and the he emphasised the importance of hope in our life. His Holiness met us at the end of the meeting and after receiving his blessings, we took many pictures with his holiness. 
On the fourth day, we discussed with Bishop Sirop the development and the future of the Chaldean Missions in Europe. 
H.E. Bishop Saad Sirop promised again to give us all kind of support in our work and he also promised to make regular visits to our Missions. 
The meetings started and ended in a brotherly spirit, not any spirit but The Holy spirit of God that gives strength, consolation and stability to the Servants of the people  to discharge their duties.

Iraqi Christians Driven Out By ISIS Return To Worship In Desecrated Church

By Christian Today
Carey Lodge

As members of St George's Church in Bartella entered their church for the first time since ISIS was driven out, they immediately began to worship.
As they crossed the threshold to see utter devastation – crosses broken, windows smashed and the charred remains of the alter – they began to sing, which turned to prayer. Later, they wept.
Bartella lies just nine miles from Mosul – ISIS' last stronghold in Iraq, and the subject of a major offensive to reclaim territory from the jihadist group.
More than 100,000 people have now fled the city as the battle intensifies, and Christian international relief organisation Samaritan's Purse is working on the front lines to serve those in the midst of crisis. Partners are on the ground in the refugee camps and outside of them; providing food for 30,000 families a day along with emergency shelters and blankets.
Because although villages like Bartella have now been liberated from Islamic State, it remains unsafe for them to return home.
Executive director of Samaritan's Purse, Simon Barrington, just returned from a visit to Bartella. In an interview with Christian Today, he described visiting the St George's Church with its priest, Father Benham, and four sisters of the congregation.
"As we walked through the door of the church, it was incredible," Barrington said. "I was very moved to see their response. They immediately started singing, then started to pray, and then started to cry – in that order. It was their first time back in that place of worship – no one had worshipped there for two years – and their immediate response among the ashes and the debris, with broken crosses and a noose hanging from the gates of the church, was to worship God."
Barrington said he asked the Iraqis what they were singing. "We were singing songs of hope," they replied. "We were praying to God to rebuild this church, and to come back here and recreate this Christian community."
ISIS overran Bartella on 6 August 2014, and 5,000 families were forced to flee with just three hours' notice. In October this year the Iraqi army reclaimed the village, but devastation remains in the jihadis' wake.
It's described as a ghost town; many buildings have been completely flattened and those that remain have been burnt out and looted. Other churches, too, have been destroyed. The Mart Shmony Syriac Orthodox Church in Bartella is left charred by a fire. When church leaders returned, inside the church pews were overturned, and hymn books and Bibles had been torn apart and thrown on the floor.
According to the Telegraph's Josie Ensor, graffiti scrawled on the walls of the church read: "Our God is higher than the cross".
Across Bartella, some explosive devices have yet to be defused, making it impossible for residents to return home.
And yet, church leaders have pledged to return and rebuild the village.
"I was amazed by their determination and commitment to the people of Barterlla and the surrounding region; of their commitment to be a continued witness in that area," Barrington said of Father Benham and the nuns.
"There are huge risks for them in doing that, but they were very determined."
Some Iraqi Christians have said they are too afraid to return home after years of sectarian tension, but Barrington said Father Benham's determination to return home was a "prophetic statement" to the wider community.
"It was leaders going back in and saying we will face up to this pain and hurt, to this devastation, and we will lead people through," he said.
"There's a deep sense of community – people don't want to return until the churches function because church is at the heart of their community. Father Benham and the leaders of his congregation said once churches are rebuilt, the people will return."

Regno Unito: principe Carlo alla radio, preoccupato per sopravvivenza fede cristiana in Medio Oriente e per populismo in Europa


Un erede al trono cristiano che si preoccupa per la sopravvivenza della propria fede in Medio Oriente, mentre si prepara a raccogliere la corona della regina Elisabetta. Così è apparso il principe Carlo, questa mattina, durante “Thought for the day”, lo spazio religioso radiofonico più ascoltato del Regno Unito sul canale Bbc4.
“È stato un gesuita siriano a dirmi di temere che i cristiani verranno completamente sterminati dall’Iraq e dai Paesi confinanti”, ha detto il principe alla radio. E ancora: “La generazione dei miei genitori ha combattuto contro l’intolleranza e l’estremismo mentre oggi vediamo molti gruppi populisti aggressivi nei confronti di coloro che seguono fedi di minoranza”. Il principe Carlo ha anche ricordato la storia della Sacra famiglia sfuggita alla persecuzione violenta di re Erode, un dramma simile a quello di oltre 60 milioni di migranti costretti a lasciare la loro terra. Qualche anno fa il principe, che se diventasse re sarebbe il capo della “Chiesa di Inghilterra”, aveva dichiarato di voler essere “leader di tutte le fedi” sollevando dubbi sulle sue  convinzioni cristiane. Il principe Carlo ha parlato inoltre del rischio che la crescita del populismo porti al ripetersi degli orrori dell’Olocausto.

Patriarca caldeo: un Natale di pace per ricostruire l'Iraq unito e plurale

Fra i timori sollevati dalle guerre in Siria e Iraq e, più in generale, in tutti i confitti del Medio oriente che finiscono per colpire anche civili e bambini, il Natale “ricorda l’importanza della pace e il suo estremo bisogno”. È quanto sottolinea il patriarca caldeo mar Louis Raphael Sako, nel suo messaggio di Natale ai fedeli e invitato ad AsiaNews. Quando lo spirito di vendetta e di ira “scompare dai nostri cuore”, aggiunge il prelato, sentiamo davvero “lo spirito natalizio, che vuol dire vivere all’insegna della carità e della gioia”. 
La storia di Gesù Cristo, avverte mar Sako, “è la storia del Dio incarnato per noi, per essere come noi, di modo che possiamo essere felici”. La festa è una occasione “per offrire una vita nuova e un futuro migliore”, come ricorda anche lo stesso papa Francesco che esorta i cristiani a essere agenti di pace e a mettere fine a tutti i conflitti. 
Il Paese e l’intera regione mediorientale sono preda di guerre, attentati, divisioni che rischiano di innescare un clima di conflitto permanente. Vi è poi anche il dramma dei rifugiati di Mosul e della piana di Ninive, che da ormai due anni e mezzo attendono di tornare nelle loro case e nelle loro terre, depredate dai jihadisti dello Stato islamico. 
Serve operare per dar vita a un “autentico e armonioso accordo” per la riconciliazione nazionale del Paese, sia a livello di “governo centrale che delle autorità regionali del Kurdistan”. Ecco dunque che i leader politici, istituzionali e religiosi sono chiamati a “costruire uno Stato civile forte”, che sappia rivoluzionare il sistema educativo che, in molti casi è esso stesso foriero di una ideologia fondamentalista. 
A questo si aggiunge la lotta alla “mentalità tribale” che prevede la “vendetta” per sanare i disaccordi, sostituendola con una “cultura aperta” che si basi su valori umani e morali autentici e integrati alla società su cui è fondata. Per Natale e il Capodanno, prosegue il primate caldeo, “vi invito a intensificare le vostre preghiere” per la fine delle violenze e delle sofferenze. 
“Vorrei esprimere in questa occasione - afferma il prelato - la mia gratitudine a tutti colore che hanno aperto le braccia per aiutare gli sfollati e alleviare le loro sofferenze, in particolar modo il governo regionale curdo, le organizzazioni caritative legate alla Chiesa e la società civile. Voglio inoltre ringrazia l’esercito irakeno e i Peshmerga e tutte le componenti del Paese che si sono adoperato per la liberazione delle terre occupate dallo Stato islamico”. 
Infine, il patriarca caldeo incoraggia i fedeli a impegnarsi nelle attività “umanitarie, educative, sociali, sanitarie e politiche”, per contribuire alla “diffusione della tolleranza, della collaborazione, del rispetto reciproco, in un contesto di unità e pluralismo”. “Vi assicuro - conclude mar Sako il suo messaggio di Natale - che la nostra Chiesa non risparmierà alcuno sforzo per collaborare con le autorità religiose musulmane, la società civile, le organizzazione e tutte le persone di buona volontà, per sostenere questo progetto promettente”.

December 21, 2016
The message of H.B. Louis Raphael Sako “Christmas: Peace for Humanity"

21 dicembre 2016

The message of H.B. Louis Raphael Sako “Christmas: Peace for Humanity"

Sisters and brothers
Amidst the concerns and worries of Iraqis and Syrians, and the people of the Middle East in which children and civilians are made victims of a harsh war, millions persons are displaced from their homes and driven out of their lands and are living in tragic conditions, and countries are destroyed, here is Christmas to remind us of the importance of peace and the drastic need for it. “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good hope to men of good will!” is a call that aims at reviving our faith and enthusiasm to realize a just and lasting peace for all humanity, which consolidates the bonds of brotherhood, and strengthens coexistence against fanaticism, extremism, and violent acts.
What was delivered to the shepherds on Christmas Eve is Good News for us as well. “I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people” (Luke 2:10-11). So, let us entrust ourselves to this grace that offers us peace of mind and joy. This Good News is not mere wishful thinking. It is the title for a lifelong project that can be realized by the one who can understand it and find joy in it. Also, for those who have the courage to go ahead with it and were reborn from above. Those who are able to stand before God cleansing their hearts and minds by dedicating their love to God and his people.
Sisters and brothers
Through the birth of Jesus Christ, God became close to us, Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’. He wants, from eternity and forever, to be a human God rather than a God without human beings. Therefore, the story of Jesus Christ is the story of God incarnated for our sake, and to be with us, so that we may be free and happy.
We sing during Christmas for love and peace. Here is an example of one of our hymns: On Christmas Eve love blossoms, to wipe out hatred, and war fire is turned off. If we offer a glass of water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, wipe tears from eyes, and fill hearts with hope, we are in a Christmas spirit. When the spirit of revenge dies out in us, when hatred disappears from our hearts, we are in a Christmas spirit, which means to live the values of charity and joy amongst ourselves away from shaping of backward thinking.
Christmas aims to offer a new life and a better future, as stated by Pope Francis, who calls upon us to “live a life entitled by peace desired by humanity whereby wars and struggles are ceased”. Consequently, the realization of an authentic and harmonious Iraqi National Accord is urgently needed at both levels, of Iraq and Regional Government (Kurdistan). It is also necessary at the moment to adopt a new culture for a new time that would secure a peaceful communal life for us. Hence the Iraqi leaders must build a strong civil state, revise the current conventional educational system, out of a tribal mentality, with an inclination for revenge, and envious behaviors, and replace it with one opened culture that aims to rehabilitate men, and teach them the worthy human and moral values on which every integrated society is founded.
In this Christmas and in the coming New Year of 2017, a week from now, I invite you to intensify your prayers so that there will be an end to war and the anguish from which people suffer, especially the civilians, including children, displaced families (IDPs) as well as the destroyed infrastructure of their home towns in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere around the world. I also call upon the world leaders to work steadfastly for peace and justice and to protect people’s lives and respect their dignity.
Sisters and brothers
I would like on this occasion to express my heart-felt congratulations for a Merry Christmas, trusting that I am closer to you than ever so that this feast may revive our people’s hope to return to their homes, ancestral lands, history and memories. I would like here to express my gratefulness to all those who extended their hands to ease the suffering of the IDPs, especially the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Church Charitable Organizations, and Civil Society. I would like also to thank the heroes of the Iraqi Army, the Peshmerga, the Popular and National Mobilization, and those from the Christian Component of Iraq, for liberating the Iraqi lands occupied by the ISIS terrorists. I definitely feel your worries, pain and suffering and will continue to work to the best of my ability with my brothers, the bishops and priests, support you by all means.

Sisters and brothers
At this particular time, I urge you to hold fast to your land, maintain your homes, and keep good relationships with all the components of the Iraqi society, and instead of declining, fearing, and being a victim of random emigration, I encourage you to engage in humanitarian, educational, social, health, and political institutions in order to contribute to the spread and promotion of tolerance, acceptance of others, mutual respect, and cooperation, in a framework of unity and diversity plurality for the sake of laying down a solid foundation for an integrated civil society away from the sectarian form, that will honor our country and serve all our citizens.
These difficult choices represent a project of survival against the emergence of new struggles that otherwise, will divide our country and our people. These choices must be transformed into a message that expresses the will of God for us, and accept it with an open heart and joy, that will be for us a fountain of goodness, peace and prosperity. Finally, I am assuring you that our Church will not spare any effort for cooperate with Muslim religious authorities, civil society, organizations and all people with good will to support this promising project.
Merry Christmas and happy New Year! May peace triumph in Iraq, Kurdistan and the world.

19 dicembre 2016

Iraqi family flees Islamic State for a festive reunion

Peace and joy at Christmas: those greeting-card words will have true meaning this year for four generations of the Naeem family, Iraqi Assyrian Christians who will celebrate together in Canberra after fleeing first Islamic State in Baghdad and then exile in Beirut.
The nine members of the family, including Ramzi Naeem’s aged parents, his children, son-in-law and baby Alan have benefited three times over from a series of extraordinary connections with Australia and New Zealand stretching back almost a century to World War I.
Grandfather Jameel, 77, well remembers when the family could mark Christmas at their home in Iraq.
Four-year-old Alan’s only memories are of the past 2½ years spent in exile in Lebanon. It will be their first Christmas complete as a family for 20 years.
The extended family migrated to Canberra earlier this month after fleeing an Islamic State advance on their predominantly Christian neighbourhood in Baghdad in 2014 and then spending more than two years in Beirut.
This week, visiting Parliament House as part of a difficult readjustment to a new peaceful life, Ramzi said: “I can’t believe you can just walk in.”
The family left almost everything they had behind, including their thriving jewellery business, when they fled Baghdad. They were robbed of the little they had, including some money for “bribes”, while attempting to move to safer areas.
The Naeems were heavily dependent on support from Ramzi’s sister, Wesal, who had come to Australia 19 years ago after fleeing Saddam’s regime. Wesal was already settled in Australia, living in Canberra.
While the Naeems were waiting with groups of Christian refugees in Lebanon, the family connection with Australia helped it qualify for the Australian government’s special 12,000-refugee intake for persecuted people fleeing Iraq and Syria.
Although their daily survival in Lebanon depended on the help of relatives in Australia, other expenses, including their airfares to Beirut and then later to Australia, were covered by two Christian aid associations: Australia’s Christian Faith and Freedom and the American Nazareth Association.
However, the final assistance came largely from an almost-­century old legacy: funds left in remembrance of a soldier killed while helping 60,000 Assyrian Christian refugees from the Ottoman Turks in 1918.
Some of their expenses, including their exit visas, were partly financed by a bequest to CFF from the family of New Zealander Captain Robert Kenneth Nicol MC of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.
Captain Nicol was second-in-command under Australian Captain Stanley Savige MC AIF of a 10-man detachment of Dunster Force, a combined Australian and New Zealand force that assisted the British in the rescue of Assyrian refugees in 1918. Captain Nicol was killed in action, and is ­officially recognised by Assyrian Christians as a martyr.
The extended Australian family of Captain Nicol wanted the bequest to be used specifically for ongoing aid to Christians in the Middle East.
A spokesman for CFF told The Weekend Australian: “Using the bequest to rescue Assyrians — once more endangered because of their Christian faith, their ethnicity and 7000-year connection with their ancestral land in Mesopotamia of which they have now been dispossessed — seemed an appropriate way of honouring the courage of Captain Nicol, and the dedication of his Australian family to that project.”
Part of the family pull to Australia was to reunite with sister Wesal, who fled Iraq for Australia after her first husband was killed by Saddam’s regime.
The recent arrivals are now living with the help of welfare payments that were approved only a few days ago.
They are based in government-supported accommodation for at least a month, and are looking for permanent ­alternative accommodation.
However, they do intend to support themselves as soon as they can. Ramzi wants to set himself up in business, with the help of family members. He is a jeweller and so is his son. At the end of March in Sydney, at the Assyrian new year, they will have a stall selling traditional jewellery.
Of the 12,000 special refugee intake the Australian government pledged to take, 10,092 visas have now been granted and 8317 people have arrived in Australia.

The presentation of H.B Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako in the International Seminar of Human Rights and Religious Freedom

The Conference was attended by some ministers, deputies, ambassadors, and heads of political parties, clergy, intellectuals and civil activists.
Here is the speech of H.B Sako.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to thank the organizers of this conference ( The Center of Research on the Southern System and the wider Mediterranean and the Catholic University of the S. Heart, Milan, for choosing such a vital and urgent topic which highlights the role of religious diversity in promoting social consistency; triggers interfaith dialogue, convergence, solidarity and understanding in order to achieve peace, social justice, freedom and to retain humankind dignity.
Let me start with two important points that summarizes the message of all religions in terms of freedom and human rights:

1. Working hard to make sure that citizenship values and human rights is the priority from now on.

2. Helping the poor and sheltering the displaced to ease the consequences of wars and conflicts.

In order to accomplish this mission, we need to realize the urgent need to a “healthy” society built on humanitarian and moral principles by adopting a culture of accepting others and reconsidering the current curriculum in schools.
We, as Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sabians and Yazidis etc. are brothers, in front of God, and we share common values that should be activated.As we all know, humanity is our inclusive identity and brotherhood is the foundation of our values. It is the responsibility that we share mutually. Brotherhood does not mean getting rid of diversity and differences, but rather respecting each other, as a necessity for living together.
Since we are all human, regardless of our social, religious, national or geographic differences. We believe that sharing this human nature and dignity will certainly create unity among citizens as well as equality in rights and duties.
Therefore, diversity is richness and differences should not turn into a disagreement, fear and conflict, which will never lead to peace. In addition, conflict is incompatible with all religious principles toward building good relationships with humankind.
Religions call for sincere dialogue and listening respectfully to others’ perspectives. Dialogue is the only way for understanding and solving problems in order to work in harmony and get our rights. A society of joy and peace can be built by discussing issues with a mature, open and civilized mentality that appreciates and promotes co-existence, communication, revival, and integration. In fact, this is the only way to Glorify God and be in peace on earth.
Accordingly, our focus should be on the following facts and steps:

1. We have to promote interfaith dialogue in order to create tolerance and acceptance of each other and move away from the extremist ideology, imported via ISIS culture that urges hatred, violence and murder. In this regard, Pope Francis said in welcoming religious representatives, on Wednesday 11/04/2016,: "It is vulgarity to justify violence in the name of religion". So, we need to engage in a process of self-criticism by sound cultural and educational institutions, to know all the reasons behind what happened and is happening. Perhaps moderate Islam needs, in such circumstances, an uprising to save Islam.
2. Every religion has educational “fixed” doctrines as well as other “time and place related” scriptural verses, which require sustainable updated interpretation; otherwise, we will mislead our believers and lose them. In other word, religion doesn’t mean, repeating these verses as written in Holy Books, but rather to understand the actual meaning of the message contained in these verses, and to present them for our people in an appropriate scientific clarification that can be applied in real life, unlike the traditional style. Incidentally, Saint Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3/6: "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life". Also, religious speeches must defend human rights strongly and stick to its brave prophetic role in guiding people to spiritual and humanitarian values that equip them with confidence and hope.
3. We have to learn about the religion of others from their sources and specialists, and not through popular rumors and uninformed ideas. We must stand against any abuse of other religions’ sanctities, whatever is its source. However, the religious privacy should be taken into account by ensuring the right of its believers to express it freely and preserving their sanctities.
4. To get rid of extremism and terrorism, we have to educate our children with sound education, on humanitarian, social and religious basis. Hence, dialogue won’t be correct unless we respect the feelings, and holy symbols of others. We need to promote a culture of maturity and responsibility. We need a curriculum that respects pluralism and diversity; a curriculum that accepts the other and recognizes him no matter what his religion, sex or race is; a curriculum that rejects extremism, exclusion and violence. The time has come to issue a statement prohibiting the shed of innocent people blood, whoever they are. Overall, religion calls for mutual respect, friendship, good consideration, solidarity, defense of human dignity, the common good, rather than putting barriers and mines.
5. The Christian component is an essential and important part of Iraqi fabric. Yet, has suffered a lot from Isis, religious extremism and governmental legislation. They need to be embraced after the most recent tragedy, especially by their Muslim brothers, Shiites, Sunnis, and to safeguard their rights and ensure their protection, instead of marginalizing them. At the moment, Christians are not expecting to hear speeches, but to restore confidence in their neighbors; to keep them on their land instead of pushing them to emigrate. Helping Christians to stay on their homeland will endorse public interest, due to their unique competence, dedication, integrity, and openness. They will definitely, contribute to the revival, progress and prosperity of the country.

As a Church, we are ready to keep devoting ourselves fully and without reservation to serve all Iraqis without any discrimination. To support the process of reconciliation and the promoting co-existence, peace and stability.
We trust that, with dialogue, we can work and live together in peace, hope and joy.

Terra Santa: mons. Pizzaballa (patriarcato), “situazione dei cristiani in Siria, Iraq ed Egitto è una tragedia completa”


“La situazione dei cristiani in Siria, Iraq ed Egitto è una tragedia completa. In questi Paesi, culla della nostra civiltà, il circolo vizioso della violenza sembra senza speranza e senza fine”. Lo ha detto, nella sua prima conferenza stampa, in occasione del Natale, l’amministratore apostolico del Patriarcato latino di Gerusalemme, monsignor Pierbattista Pizzaballa.
“Tutti abbiamo visto le immagini di Aleppo della scorsa settimana, ma anche di tutta la regione durante i lunghi anni del conflitto. Siria e Iraq sono distrutti”. Le guerre e l’uso della forza, “non sono stati in grado di portare la pace e la giustizia ma solo altra violenza, morte e distruzione”, ha affermato l’arcivescovo, che ha puntato l’indice contro “il commercio di armi, i giochi di potere e i fondamentalismi”. La pace, ha ribadito Pizzaballa, implica “negoziati politici e soluzioni. L’esercito può vincere la guerra ma per costruire serve la politica. E noi non la vediamo. Molti interessi sono in gioco in queste guerre ma alla fine i poveri ei deboli sono quelli che hanno pagato per loro, e hanno pagato troppo”. Nel suo  intervento mons. Pizzaballa ha ricordato la comunità cristiana egiziana che “vive continuamente sotto minacce” come testimonia il recente attentato alla chiesa copta. A riguardo l’amministratore apostolico ha detto che “abbiamo anche noi la nostra parte di responsabilità, non possiamo continuare a parlare sempre di dialogo, giustizia e pace. Le parole non sono sufficienti. Dobbiamo combattere la povertà e l’ingiustizia dando testimonianza di misericordia”. Da mons. Pizzaballa anche la messa in guardia sulla situazione in Terra Santa, dove “riecheggiano l’estremismo e il fondamentalismo”. Chiari i riferimenti ai numerosi atti di vandalismo contro luoghi di culto cristiani. Il vescovo ha lamentato anche “la mancanza di visione” di israeliani e palestinesi che si traduce in assenza di dialogo e di impegno concreto per la pace. È urgente che i governanti “guardino con coraggio ai loro popoli che soffrono e chiedono pace”. Non è mancato un riferimento alla costruzione del muro di sicurezza israeliano a Cremisan, su terre espropriate ai palestinesi, “un sequestro dell’eredità delle famiglie cristiane palestinesi”, e alle migliaia di lavoratori stranieri, molti sono cristiani, giunti in Israele cui la Chiesa sta offrendo accoglienza per dare loro speranza. Nel discorso dell’Amministratore non sono mancate delle “luci”. Tra queste la guida e la predicazione di Papa Francesco, l’Anno della Misericordia, i restauri del Sepolcro di Gesù, della Natività a Betlemme.

Il Patriarca caldeo alle altre Chiese: non procediamo in ordine sparso. Presentiamoci uniti come “componente cristiana”

By Fides

La situazione di emergenza in cui versa l'intera nazione irachena chiama anche i cristiani a non procedere in ordine sparso, enfatizzando in maniera esasperata i fattori identitari di ogni singola comunità ecclesiale.
Conviene invece esprimere una posizione unitaria sui processi politici e sociali in atto in Iraq, presentandosi come “componente cristiana”: E' questa la Proposta che il Patriarca caldeo Louis Raphael I Sako ha rivolto a tutti i cristiani dell'Iraq, in un appello in cui li invita a sulla
“non rimanere spettatori scena irachena” e a “trovare una visione comune e una comune 'tabella di marcia'” anche per tutelare insieme il “diritto di essere trattati come gli altri”. Il ricorso all'espressione “componente cristiana per esprimere la posizione unitaria dei cristiani iracheni in rapporto alle vicende politiche e sociali e alle istituzioi nazionali secondo il Primate della Chiesa caldea “non contrasta con la salvaguardia di identità millenarie”, e consente di “non perdere tempo a litigare” intorno a tale patrimonio identitario. “La Chiesa caldea” riferisce il comunicato patriarcale, pervenuto all'Agenzia Fides “vuole porsi al servizio di tutti i cristiani e di tutti gli iracheni per contribuire al processo di riconciliazione”, indispensabile per ritornare a una situazione di convivenza pacifica.
Già all'inizio del suo ministero patriarcale (vedi Fides 6/2/2013), l'attuale Primate della Chiesa caldea aveva denunciato il pericolo che anche i cristiani fossero contagiati dal settarismo dominante nell'attuale contesto mediorientale: “Adesso purtroppo” aveva dichiarato il Pariarca all'Agenzia Fides “si sente qualcuno che dice: sono più armeno che cristiano, più assiro che cristiano, più caldeo che cristiano. E persiste qua e là una mentalità tribale, per cui ogni villaggio punta a avere il 'suo' Vescovo o il 'suo' Patriarca. In questo modo si spegne il cristianesimo. Noi, come Vescovi, dobbiamo essere vigilanti contro queste forme malate di vivere la propria identità”. 

16 dicembre 2016

Iraqi businessman erects tallest Christmas tree in Baghdad

By Associated Press
Ali Abdul-Hassan

A Muslim businessman has erected the tallest Christmas tree in Baghdad as a show of solidarity with Christians during the holiday season.
Yassir Saad told The Associated Press on Thursday that the initiative aims at "joining our Christian brothers in their holiday celebrations and helping Iraqis forget their anguish, especially the war in Mosul," where Iraqi forces are battling the Islamic State group.
The 85-foot-tall (26-meter) artificial tree, with a diameter of 33 feet (10 meters), has been erected in the center of an amusement park in the Iraqi capital. Saad says the initiative cost around $24,000.
"This tree represents love and peace," said teacher Saba Ismael, as her visiting students took pictures in front of the tree. "I wish all Iraqi Christians could return to Iraq and live normal and peaceful lives."
Iraq's Christian community has steadily dwindled since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Christians have been targeted by Islamic extremists on several occasions, and have also fled the country for better economic opportunities.
Thousands of Christians fled Mosul and surrounding areas when IS swept across northern Iraq in the summer of 2014. The extremist group forces Christians to convert to Islam or pay a special tax, and often confiscates their property.
Some Christians have managed to return to villages outside of Mosul that have been retaken by Iraqi forces, only to find that their homes and churches have been ransacked.

Christians in Iraq prepare for Christmas after liberation from ISIS

By Christian Daily
Lorraine Caballero

Assyrian Christians who have decided to remain in northern Iraq after their towns were liberated from the Islamic State (ISIS) are now preparing for their third Christmas as refugees.
According to Juliana Taimoorazy of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, the only people left in Nineveh are the soldiers and ministers, and they want to return and rebuild their homes come spring. Right now, most Assyrians are living as refugees either in Jordan or in the Kurdish region but they are wary of this arrangement because of the long-standing conflict between Kurds and Muslims, The Jerusalem Post details.
"We live on our knees," said Taimoorazy.
For Taimoorazy, Assyrians need a revival of patriotism. She also emphasized the necessity of establishing a separate province for the minorities so that they could have better protection from those seeking to attack them.
"We can make 'aliyah' to Nineveh; we need friends in high places, we need the pride of the language; like Eliezer Ben-Yehuda who revived spoken Hebrew," Taimoorazy suggested.
Meanwhile, in Qaraqosh, the Religious Freedom Coalition is planning to invite up to 6,000 refugee children to its Christmas for Refugees program 2016. The organization has been constantly supporting Christians who have been displaced from Iraq for more than 10 years now.
RFC's Christmas for Refugees program, which was first done in 2013, aims to provide food, medicine and spiritual assistance to Christian refugees who have not received help from Islamic charities. William J. Murry, the chairman of the organization, is reportedly doing his best to ensure that 100 percent of the aid goes to the displaced Iraqi believers.
During Christmas, RFC serves hot meals to displaced Christian children seeking refuge in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. The program also includes plays and puppet shows featuring Christmas songs and stories from the Bible. Plus, each child is given a gift box containing soap, hygiene kits and other essential items.
For RFC, Christmas for Refugees is a way to provide refugee children temporary relief from the difficulties they face every day.

Christians want to be safe

Geoffrey Johnston

Iraq is ground zero for the war on Christians in the Middle East. The war-torn Muslim-majority country has been a killing ground, where Assyrians and other Christians have been targeted for extermination by jihadists.
The jihadist army -- often referred to as the Islamic State, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh -- has systematically perpetrated atrocities against Christians in the service of genocide. Now that Islamic State forces are on the edge of defeat in Iraq, the time has come to investigate and document their crimes against humanity.
Ewelina Ochab is dedicated to bearing witness to the crimes of the Islamic State. She serves as legal counsel for ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) International, a Vienna-based legal organization that advocates "for the right of individuals to freely live out their faith."
In an email interview, Ochab stated that ADF International "has been at the forefront of the legal battle to recognize the ongoing ISIS/Daesh atrocities against Christians in the Middle East such as genocide, having successfully engaged with the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the U.K. Parliament, and many more."

Ethnic cleansing
Assyrians are a distinct ethnic group within the Middle East. They have a rich and ancient culture that is being systematically destroyed. Assyrians are the original indigenous people of Iraq, Syria and parts of Turkey. They are not Arabs.
The vast majority of Iraqi Christians are of Assyrian ethnicity. Within the Assyrian nation, there are many religious denominations, including the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean (Roman Catholic), Syriac (Catholic and Orthodox), Presbyterian, as well as Evangelical.
In 2003, there were approximately 1.4 million Assyrians and other Christians in Iraq. Today there are perhaps only 120,000 left. There can be no doubt that ethnic cleansing and genocide have taken place in Iraq.
Ochab recently travelled to Iraq to meet with Christian survivors of the Islamic State's genocidal campaign and to document the stories of the persecuted.
"In November, I visited Iraq where I met Iraqi Christian internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in Erbil," Ochab said. And she met with "a number of families" from Mosul and other communities. She also visited a number of liberated towns and villages, including Quaragosh, Karamless and Bartallah.
In addition, the genocide researcher "also met with several NGOs helping Christians in the Middle East, including SOS Chretiens, a number of NGOs collecting the evidence of the Daesh atrocities, including Shlomo and Hammurabi Human Rights Organisations, and a number of religious leaders."
The ancestral home of Assyrian Christians is located on the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq. "After Daesh took over Nineveh Plain in August 2014, the Iraqi Christians fled to Erbil and other parts of Kurdistan," Ochab said. "Hundreds of Iraqi Christians have left the region for Jordan, Lebanon and other countries. However, there are still many internally displaced Iraqi Christians living in Kurdistan."
According to Ochab, "there are four camps for Iraqi Christians in Erbil." And she found that the Christian IDPs are living in "small metal containers." She said that they receive "some humanitarian assistance" and are "reasonably safe."

Return to Nineveh?
"Those who stayed [in Iraq] the last two years and three months still hope that they would be able to go back to their homes," Ochab said. "However, I have seen their homes on the Nineveh Plain and it seems that they will not be able to return any time soon."
Ochab visited several northern towns, and she reports that they have been "destroyed" by Islamic State forces. "Daesh looted one house after another without leaving any stone unturned. The houses, churches, schools, and shops are looted, burnt down, and damaged."
The jihadists paid special attention to Christian houses of worship. "In every church that I have visited, crosses are broken, the statutes of Jesus and Holy Mary are destroyed, Holy Bibles and books burnt," Ochab said. "The destruction sent a very clear message: Daesh specifically intended to destroy Christianity in the area and everything that Christianity is associated with. This is genocide."
As Iraqi security forces, Kurdish units and Assyrian militias liberate northern Iraq from the death grip of the Islamic State, the full extent of the destruction is slowly being revealed. "It's been over four weeks since some of the towns on the Nineveh Plain have been liberated, however there is still a lot of work before people will be able to go back and start rebuilding their lives," Ochab said.
"The Nineveh Plain Units [Assyrian militias] are checking houses for explosives and Daesh tunnels, and making the safe houses," continued the genocide expert. "Some of the houses destroyed by Daesh would need to be checked whether their construction is safe and sound for people to live in. The Daesh tunnels would have to be sealed off. The list of necessary works goes on."

After meeting with Iraqi Christian refugees in Jordan, Ochab concluded that they "require urgent assistance to be able to move on with their lives. What struck me the most was that no one is interested in what these people have been through. They were unbelievably grateful to talk about their stories with me," she said.
"They said that the rest of the world has forgotten about them," continued Ochab. "However, another issue that resurfaced during my time in Jordan was the lack of organizations or bodies that would document the stories of the victims."
According to the human rights defender, ISIS/Daesh reportedly carried out crucifixions, torture, sexual abuse, murder and kidnappings. "The fact that there is no fact-finding commission that is documenting the atrocities committed by ISIS/Daesh is of concern."
Without a thorough investigation, asserted Ochab, the extent of the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS will never be known.
"Many of the victims do not know where to go, or where to report the atrocities. Many of them also feel let down and discouraged to talk about the atrocities as the world stands by and watches," she said.

Canada responds to genocide
"Canada is appalled by the atrocities and widespread abuses committed by Daesh, including those committed against religious and ethnic communities," Chantal Gagnon, press secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, stated in an email. Although Gagnon noted that "Yezidis have suffered terrible and particular losses that require special attention," she did not specifically mention Assyrians or other Christian communities in Iraq.
"In the immediate term, it is important that the survivors of these grave abuses are provided with the assistance they need," continued Gagnon. "In particular, women and children who have suffered sexual violence and slavery require urgent psychosocial and medical assistance."
To that end, Canada has been working with humanitarian partners, including the UN and non-governmental organizations, to assist survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in Iraq since 2014. "With Canadian support, our partners have established centres in camps and host communities across Iraq, where women and girls are able to access psychosocial support, specialized medical care and legal and other services," Gagnon said. "Support to women and girls affected by violence will remain at the centre of our humanitarian assistance to Iraq in the years to come."

Canada supports criminal investigation
"Through the Peace and Stabilization Operations Program (PSOPs), Canada is currently supporting the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) and its efforts to prepare for the criminal prosecution of breaches of international criminal and humanitarian law committed by Daesh," stated Gagnon. "The Commission for International Justice and Accountability has developed legal case files focusing on Daesh criminality in Syria and Iraq, including sexual slavery."
In addition, the CIJA in Iraq has attempted to bolster the investigative capabilities of the Kurdistan Regional Government's War Crimes Investigative and Prosecutorial Unit. "Some courts in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) have already begun hearing cases relating to these crimes under Iraqi terrorism law," Gagnon said.
"Canada shares the view of the U.S., UN, U.K. and EU, that the situation must be the subject of an independent investigation and determinations of criminal responsibility must be made by a competent court or tribunal," Gagnon said of the crimes perpetrated by Islamic State forces.
In addition, said Gagnon, Dion has written to the president of the UN Security Council on two separate occasions "to request that the UN Security Council establish a mechanism to investigate violations of international law by Daesh in Iraq and Syria, to determine whether these violations constitute acts of genocide or other serious international crimes, to identify the perpetrators of such crimes and measures to ensure accountability, including a referral to the International Criminal Court as appropriate."
The Foreign Affairs minister's representative stated that Canada has "acknowledged international findings from the UN-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry on human rights violations and crimes perpetrated in Syria (COI) that indicate Daesh continues to perpetrate genocide against the Yazidis."
However, the Trudeau government has yet to acknowledge that Assyrians and other Christians in Iraq are victims of genocide. There can be no justice for the survivors of genocide unless the world fully acknowledges the extent of the crimes perpetrated against them by the Islamic State.
"Without a special fact-finding commission, specifically focused on the ISIS/Daesh atrocities, the victims of ISIS/Daesh genocide will not get justice they deserve," Ochab said.