mercoledì, dicembre 07, 2016
Qaraqosh, Iraq—Two years ago,
fled when Islamic State militants made a triumphant charge through northern Iraq.
he is back in his hometown, wearing the uniform of an Iraqi militia
that is helping drive out the extremists—and aiming to secure a place
for Christians and other local minorities in Iraq’s future.
Tuwaya’s U.S.-trained force is made up of about 500 troops and 300
unpaid volunteers, most of them Assyrian Christians from Hamdaniya, a
district east of Mosul that is home to Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian town.
Iraqi army’s 9th Division captured the district with the militia’s
support in late October, in the early days of the current U.S-backed campaign to retake Mosul, the Sunni extremist group’s last major stronghold in the country.
army then largely handed responsibility for holding Hamdaniya to the
militia, whose next mission is to persuade other Christians it is safe
“This is the land of our fathers, we have to defend it,” Capt.
Tuwaya, a farmer and retired Iraqi army officer, said as he sat in the
militia’s makeshift headquarters, a former veterinary clinic, beneath
the group’s flag, a blue cross on a white background.
Iraq’s once sizable Christian population has dropped by as much as half since
was ousted in 2003, to roughly half-a-million people today.
Islamic State seized swaths of Iraqi territory in 2014, more than
150,000 Christians fled their homes. Many of them lived in Hamdaniya,
which is on the Nineveh Plain, a fertile region that inspired the
militia’s name: the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, or NPU.
of the Christian community are now pressing the central government to
grant Nineveh Plain the status of a province, a step intended to
safeguard vulnerable minority groups, which also include Yazidis and
“It’s a turning point in our history: to be or
not to be in our homeland,” said Yunadim Kanna, a Christian member of
parliament in Baghdad.
Militia leaders want the force to remain in charge of security in that territory even after Islamic State’s defeat.
The militia was formed in the fall of 2014 by displaced Christians
who felt that Iraqi and Kurdish troops had abandoned them during Islamic
State’s advance. The militia was initially funded through donations.
Members speak a modern version of Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
NPU reports to the central government, which earlier this year began
paying for salaries and supplying assault rifles. The militia hopes to
expand to around 1,000 troops and several hundred new recruits are
currently in training.
U.S. special operations forces helped
train the militiamen over the summer, and recently supplied them with
200 rifles, machine guns and ammunition, said Capt. Tuwaya.
A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State didn’t comment.
NPU’s existence is a sign of the Christian minority’s tenacity, and of
how Islamic State’s emergence deepened ethnic and religious fractures in
Iraq, despite efforts to present a common front against the insurgency.
NPU members said Iraqi Sunnis—many of whom initially supported Islamic
State—wouldn't be welcome if they returned to the Nineveh Plain.
its members’ methods can be raw. At a checkpoint outside Qaraqosh, one
young militiaman boasted that he beheaded an Islamic State fighter with
his pocketknife on his first day of combat. He showed a photo on his
phone of the militant’s head.
Qaraqosh, where some 40,000 people
once lived, is now a ghost town. The main street is littered with debris
and charred furniture, the shops burned and their windows shattered.
Airstrikes flattened buildings.
The town’s walls and churches are
scrawled with depictions of Islamic State’s black-and-white flag—and
now also with graffiti of the NPU.
“It’s from this direction that we are expecting attacks,” said Capt.
Nimroud Moma, who commands a company of some 90 NPU militiamen, pointing
out at the open desert toward territory still contested by Islamic
Militiamen positioned heavy machine guns on the balconies of abandoned homes.
Tuwaya said he joined the militia because he wants Iraqi Christians to
return to their ancestral lands. Two of his six children have left Iraq,
and the other family members share a two-bedroom apartment in Erbil.
“I am doing this first for Iraq, and second for Hamdaniya,” he said.
family members fled Qaraqosh, their house was looted and Islamic State
militants moved in. When Capt. Tuwaya returned for the first time, in
November, he said almost everything was gone.
But he found a portrait of the Virgin Mary under a sofa, brushed off the broken glass and hung it back on the wall.
Alle distruzioni operate dall'Isis, dai talebani e dalle guerre,
occorre rispondere creando un “rifugio sicuro” per la conservazione del
patrimonio culturale a rischio scomparsa “in collaborazione con il
governo” o, in alternativa, stabilire un ufficio “di rappresentanza”
delle Nazioni Unite. Formare “personale irakeno” perché sia in grado di
“trattare, documentare, proteggere e ripristinare” manoscritti,
manufatti ed edifici dalla storia millenaria. È l’appello lanciato dal
patriarca caldeo mar Louis Raphael Sako dal palco della “Conferenza
internazionale per la salvaguardia del patrimonio culturale nelle aree
teatro in conflitto”.
Nel suo intervento, inviato ad AsiaNews, il
primate della Chiesa irakena ha anche chiesto “strumenti moderni e
sofisticati” per svolgere al meglio “un compito così importante e
delicato” come la salvaguardia di un patrimonio a rischio.
La conferenza si è tenuta il 2 e 3 dicembre scorso ad Abu Dhabi,
negli Emirati Arabi Uniti (Eau) e ha riunito capi di Stato e di governo,
esperti, studiosi, leader religiosi islamo-cristiani e attivisti nei
settori della storia, dell’archeologia e della cultura. Il patriarca
Sako sin dai tempi in cui era arcivescovo di Kirkuk aveva denunciato i
pericoli corsi dal patrimonio culturale irakeno, un “bene universale” da salvaguardare. Di recente ha ricordato come l’archeologia vale “più del petrolio”.
Alla conferenza di Abu Dhabi i partecipanti hanno lanciato un
appello, finalizzato alla creazione di un fondo da 100 milioni di
dollari per la salvaguardia del patrimonio culturale delle aree a
rischio. Patrocinata dall’Unesco, l’iniziativa ha riunito rappresentanti
da oltre 40 nazioni molti dei quali provenienti da nazioni teatro di
guerra. L’obiettivo è sia la cura del patrimonio che la lotta al
traffico di manufatti e reperti, oltre che contribuire al restauro dei
beni danneggiati. La Dichiarazione di Abu Bhadi, confermano gli esperti,
è un primo passo nell’ottica della conservazione del patrimonio. “La
creazione di questo Fondo - afferma il direttore generale Unesco Irina
Bokova - apre nuovi orizzonti […] un rinnovato impegno per la cultura,
l’istruzione, la dignità umana, in cui la tutela del patrimonio diventa
parte integrante di una strategia globale contro l’odio e
Ecco, di seguito, l’intervento del patriarca Sako inviato per conoscenza ad AsiaNews:
L’Iraq, l’antica Mesopotamia, ha rappresentato la culla della
civilizzazione: a partire dai Sumeri, l’impero di Akkad, i babilonesi, i
caldei, gli assiri, i persiani, gli ebrei, i cristiani e gli arabi
musulmani. Tutti insieme, essi formano e rappresentano un tesoro
nazionale e internazionale.
Sparsi per tutto l’Iraq vi sono molti siti archeologici, molte chiese
antiche e monasteri perché i cristiani hanno costituito a lungo la
maggioranza della popolazione, prima dell’arrivo degli arabi musulmani
nel settimo secolo.
La progressiva escalation di conflitti etnici e religiosi in tutta la
regione mostra il bisogno urgente di azioni decise da parte della
comunità internazionale, al fine di proteggere e preservare questo
nostro patrimonio culturale.
L’invasione statunitense dell’Iraq del 2003 e la caduta di Baghdad
hanno originato un traffico di centinaia di manufatti dal valore
inestimabile, rubati dal Museo Nazionale irakeno nell’indifferenza
generale. Lo stesso è avvenuto con il museo di Mosul, all’indomani della
conquista della città da parte degli estremisti dello Stato islamico.
Questi episodi hanno rappresentato una perdita gravissima per il nostro
I jihadisti dell’Isis (ex Stato islamico) hanno dato il via a una
vera e propria campagna di distruzione finalizzata alla cancellazione di
tutto ciò che ha preceduto l’età islamica. E di tutto ciò che non si
adattava alla loro ideologia.
In seguito alla distruzione delle moschee di Nabi Younis e Nabi
Jarjees, così come alle devastazioni di alcuni fra i più significativi e
antichi siti come Nimrud e Hatra (Hadhar), unito al rogo di centinaia
di manoscritti prelevati da molte chiese e monasteri, la comunità
internazionale dovrebbe coinvolgere il governo irakeno e gli altri
governi della regione, per assicurare la preservazione e la protezione
di questo patrimonio multi-millenario. E dar vita un gruppo di esperti
che possano avviare le necessarie opere di restauro.
Tuttavia, fra i segnali che sono fonte di incoraggiamento vi è
l’iniziativa lanciata da p. Najib Mussa, un frate domenicano, che ha
fondato il “Centro digitale di manoscritti orientali” a Mosul nel 1990 e
ha iniziato a documentare e classificare manoscritti di chiese e
monasteri. Egli ha anche filmato 7500 manoscritti e restaurato altri,
che si erano danneggiati nel tempo. Grazie alla sua opera sono
disponibili cd e cataloghi, oggi raccolto nel centro domenicano di
Auspichiamo con rinnovata speranza che questi siti antichi, queste
vecchie chiese, i monasteri e le moschee siano presto ricostruiti nel
modo giusto e seguendo le forme originarie.
Oggigiorno, la situazione è ancora insicura e anche quando lo Stato
islamico sarà sconfitto, la sua ideologia continuerà a generare un nuovo
tipo di conflitti. Per questo vorrei sottoporre alla vostra attenzione i
seguenti progetti, connotati da un carattere di concretezza e, al tempo
stesso, di urgenza.
1) Creare un rifugio sicuro per la conservazione e lo stoccaggio del
patrimonio culturale a rischio di scomparsa, con l’accordo (sotto forma
di convenzione) del governo irakeno o, quantomeno, stabilire una
rappresentanza delle Nazioni Unite preposta al monitoraggio per
assicurarne la sorveglianza.
2) Portare esperti che siano preposti alla formazione del personale
irakeno su come trattare questo patrimonio culturale, che è qui da
migliaia di anni. E formare il personale su come documentare, proteggere
e ripristinare i manoscritti, i siti storici, i manufatti antichi, le
chiese, i monasteri, le sinagoghe e le moschee nel modo giusto.
3) Equipaggiare questi team irakeni con strumenti moderni e sofisticati, per svolgere un compito così importante e delicato.
martedì, dicembre 06, 2016
Displaced Iraqi Christians in America have said that this Christmas
they will be praying for relatives still living in their homeland.
On a recent overcast Sunday morning in northwest Chicago, the pews of
the small wood-panelled St Ephrem Chaldean Catholic Church were filled
to overflowing. Among the rows of Massgoers sat Firaz Rassam and her
After the Mass, Rassam and her sister, Victoria Rassam, said they
“pray, pray that (Victoria’s) children would be able to get out (of
northern Iraq) in time” before any major ISIS attack or any other
conflict reaches their neighbourhood in Ankawa, a Christian hub in the
Kurdish region. Firaz Rassam, who arrived in Chicago in September, said
this year she would not be able to celebrate Christmas “with the type of
happiness that (her family) normally would celebrate.”
Speaking through their nephew who interpreted from their native
dialect, an Aramaic derivative, Firaz Rassam, 44, told Catholic News
Service (CNS) that she and her three children came ahead of her husband
after her other sister, Fairuz Rassam, sent for her.
“The environment over there,” said Firaz Rassam, who used to be a
librarian. “There’s no electricity. It’s dangerous. There’s no work. I
want to have a better future for my kids.”
Victoria Rassam, 56, who migrated to Chicago two years ago, was still
waiting for her family to come. She said all she could do was pray and
that she was “really hoping” she would see her children again soon.
“This Christmas we will celebrate by going to midnight Mass and praying for them,” said Victoria Rassam.
Since the second Gulf War in 2003, oil-rich Iraq has been unstable
with ethnic and religious conflicts that have given rise to various
terror organisations, including ISIS. Many Christians migrated; others
fled ISIS and other terror organisations.
Deacon Hameed Shabila, a long-time Chicago resident who works
at St Ephrem, told CNS his siblings in the Baghdad area have not been
able to attend midnight Mass for years because it is not safe. He said
the churches are heavily guarded by armed forces after dark.
Deacon Shabila, who has asked that his siblings be allowed to come to
the US, said it was also around Christmas time that one parishioner’s
adult son was killed in Iraq 10 years ago. Shabila served as interpreter
for the parishioner, Maria Yonan.
Yonan said she fled Iraq with her daughter-in-law and two grandsons
immediately after her son was killed when he was celebrating on New
Year’s. The 77-year old widow was hesitant to speak with CNS and feared
for her grandsons’ safety as she described how a group she called
terrorists attacked her son and his friends.
Yonan and her daughter-in-law spent a couple of years as refugees in
Syria, trying to get to Australia, where her daughter-in-law has family.
But the wait was too long and they decided to come to the US, which was
readily accepting refugees. Her daughter also came to the US as a
refugee and is living in California, but one other daughter stayed
behind with her own family.
Yonan, who recently became a US citizen and lives in low-income
housing, said at Christmas she likes to go to midnight Mass at St
Ephrem, where she can be with people who speak her language. She has
tried to keep up some of the same Christmas traditions that her family
kept in Iraq.
Yonan said every Christmas her grandsons visit and she makes special
Christmas sweet called klecha, a treat that “makes people happy” and
signifies a joyful time. But this year, Yonan said she was not planning
to make the sweets because she is in mourning after the November 25
death of her son-in-law, who suffered a heart attack in Baghdad.
Hazim Maryaqo and his family also will not be celebrating Christmas
this year because of the death from illness of his brother in Baghdad.
Maryaqo, 49, arrived in the Detroit area on October 4 with his pregnant
wife and three children, all younger than eight.
In a phone interview with CNS, he said through an interpreter that
when the family was living as refugees in Turkey during the two years
before coming to the US, “there was no (Christmas) celebration.”
“The three or four (Christian) families that were around us, they
came to our house, we went to their house. That was as simple as we
could do,” said Maryaqo, who was threatened with death at his family
pastry shop in central Baghdad for selling certain cakes with liqueur in
Maryaqo said now that he is in Michigan, his family tries to go to
Mass often, but sometimes trying to find transportation is tough. He
said he is hoping to find work as a pastry chef so that the family can
have some stability and get to church more regularly. But he also
expressed anxiety about the safety of his elderly father and siblings
left behind in Baghdad.
“I will never go back to Iraq, but I hope I can bring my family here,” he said.
Going to Christmas midnight Mass was something that Eevyan Hanoon said
she longed for when she lived with her husband and toddler for three
years at a refugee camp in Turkey. She told CNS by phone that she made
klecha and tried to make the most of the season. But something was
“The difference at Christmastime was the Eucharist. I missed taking
the Eucharist. I was with two church choirs in Mosul (Iraq),” said
Hanoon, 28. “This is the most important thing in our life. We have not
missed a single Sunday” since arriving in Michigan in September.
In Chicago, the Rassam sisters’ nephew, Rakan Kunda, said even if his
own family has been living in the US for two decades, they “always
remember … family back home” at Christmas time.
“We think about them,” said Kunda, 26. “We pray for them but there’s nothing we can do at this point. Until all this is over.”
his three brothers and their families used to kick off Christmas celebrations
by attending a packed Christmas Eve Mass at St. Thomas Church in Baghdad. Wearing
brand new clothes and sporting fresh haircuts, they would spend the night
chatting, singing and eating pacha, a dish made from sheep's head that Iraqis
consider a delicacy and a staple of Christmas.
But that was 20 years ago.
Today, Dankha, 51, his wife, Faten, and their five children live in Turkey as
refugees, far away from the rest of their families. They are waiting for an
answer to their resettlement application to Australia.
"If you count Christmas and
Easter, it has been about 40 times we haven't gathered," said Dankha,
whose brothers now live in New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands.
Years of instability, violence
and discrimination have forced Iraqi Christian families to leave their homes.
Christmas, traditionally celebrated with loved ones, is a reminder of the
exodus of Christians from Iraq and the Middle East to countries all over the
word. Despite the distance and across different time zones, families keep the
spirit of the holiday alive.
"The last time we were all
together was 2005. Maybe 2006. I am not sure," Habiba Taufiq, 69, told
Catholic News Service.
Taufiq was born in Aqrah but has
lived most of her life in Ankawa, a Christian enclave in northern Iraq. She is
now a refugee in Turkey, where she lives with one of her 10 children. The other
nine are split among Australia, France, Sweden and Iraq.
"We danced and celebrated
because of Jesus. Not only us but also with other families," Taufiq said,
remembering Christmas back home. "Now there is a big difference because we
are in different countries and that affects the occasion."
To stay connected, families rely
on messaging and calling apps.
"I call them on Viber
video," said Dankha, mentioning one the most popular apps among the Iraqi
community in Turkey.
Last year, Dankha spent at least
four hours glued to his phone as he virtually celebrated Christmas with family
and friends in 10 different countries. At some point he had to connect his phone
to a power adapter after running out of charge. But seeing and hearing what is happening
on the other side of the call is no replacement for being face to face.
"I see them celebrating in
parties, and I feel sorrowful because I am here and we are separated, in
different countries," Dankha said.
Nearly halfway around the world,
in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Nesrin Arteen, 42, also uses a messaging app to
keep in touch with her family.
"I talk to them often; with
the internet, it is easy. But back when I arrived, it was very different,"
she told CNS.
Arteen is from Zakho, Iraq, and
moved to Canada in 1994 before smartphones became ubiquitous. At the time she
had to use a call center and wait in line before she could speak with her
family. And when it was her turn, the quality of the connection was not good,
and the calls frequently disconnected.
For Arteen, Christmas meant
attending the Christmas Eve Mass and staying up all night with her family. She
fondly remembered klecha -- a traditional cookie usually filled with nuts,
coconuts or dates -- which she could not have when she first arrived in Canada.
Back then Saskatoon did not even have a Chaldean Catholic church, which made
her feel removed from her Christmas traditions.
"It was a different feel,
different from home. I didn't feel the spirit of Christmas," Arteen said, remembering
the first Christmas she spent in Canada.
Over time things changed. Today
there is a Chaldean church in her city, and Arteen has started to create her
own Christmas traditions.
"I feel that the spirit of
Christmas is here," she said. "My children go to a Christian school
and are also part of the choir. There are places where they sing Christmas
Taufiq hopes to
reunite soon with some of her family in Australia. As she navigates visa
procedures, she said she feels at peace that her children continue the
traditions she started.
separated us and now we are in different countries. But we still continue
living with love," she said.
Dankha told CNS this Christmas
will be special. His younger brother, Yalda, will visit him in Turkey from the
Netherlands. They haven't seen each other since 2000.
That makes one less person on
his list of people to call on Christmas.
"There are so many friends
I don't know if I will ever see. Maybe one day when my country's situation is OK,
maybe then we will get together. But I don't know if that will happen," he
Le Unità di Protezione della Piana di Ninive (PNU), organizzazione
paramilitare costituitasi n Iraq nel 2014 e composta perlopiù da
cristiani assiri, siri e caldei, ha annunciato l'apertura di una campagna d'arruolamento su base volontaria, rivolta in particolare a
giovani uomini delle comunità cristiane locali della regione di Mosul e
della Piana di Ninive intenzionati a partecipare alle operazioni
militari per la riconquista e la difesa dei centri abitati delle terre
che erano state occupate dai jihadisti dell'autoproclamato Stato
Nel testo di indizione della campagna d'arruolamento, reso noto anche
dai media locali, si sollecitano i giovani cristiani ad arruolarsi
volontariamente nelle Unità di Protezione anche per favorire e garantire
il ritorno in piena sicurezza alle proprie case e alle proprie città da
parte delle migliaia di cristiani che erano fuggiti dalle città della
Piana di Ninive tra il giugno e l'agosto 2014, davanti all'avanzare
delle milizie jihadiste. Nel documento si riportano anche i nomi dei
responsabili da contattare per comunicare la propria intenzione di
arruolarsi, divisi per area di competenza.
A fine novembre il generale Riad Jalal Tawfiq, comandante delle forze di terra dell'esercito iracheno impegnate nella
riconquista di Mosul, aveva confermato che le Unità di Protezione armata
organizzate su base confessionale, compresi i gruppi composti da
cristiani siri e assiri, sarebbero state coinvolte ufficialmente nel
sistema di sicurezza e autodifesa delle zone della Piana di Ninive già
sottratte ai jihadisti dello Stato Islamico (Daesh). Il generale
iracheno aveva aggiunto che le milizie locali costituitesi su base
tribale o etnico-confessionale (compresi i turkmeni e i membri della
minoranza etnico-religiosa Shabak) avranno un ruolo di primo piano anche
nella gestione dell'accoglienza e della fornitura di cibo e beni di
prima necessità ai profughi che faranno ritorno alle proprie case.
Quando i cristiani nell’agosto del 2014 sono fuggiti dal villaggio di
Bartalla, uno dei tanti che si susseguono nella Piana di Ninive, in
Iraq, l’allora 14enne Ibrahim Matti e sua madre Jandark Nasi non sono
riusciti a fuggire. Non avevano un’automobile e confidavano che un
parente sarebbe tornato a prenderli come promesso. Non pensavano che gli
uomini dello Stato islamico li avrebbero catturati prima e portati in
una prigione a Mosul. È qui che sono rimasti da allora fino a poche
settimane fa, quando l’avanzata dell’esercito nella capitale irachena
del Califfato gli ha permesso di scappare. Bartalla dista appena 23
chilometri da Mosul e dal giorno dell’invasione dei jihadisti mancano
all’appello un centinaio di cristiani. La speranza è che una volta
ripresa Mosul escano tutti da qualche prigione come Matti e Nasi, ma per
ora sono pochissimi ad essersi rivelati ancora vivi. «Siamo molto
felici di riabbracciarli», ha dichiarato al Christian Science Monitor padre Ammar Siman, sacerdote di Bartalla. «Ovviamente hanno bisogno di essere aiutati. Hanno sofferto molto».
All’arrivo dell’Isis Matti e Nasi hanno cercato di fuggire a Erbil
ma sono stati bloccati a un check-point e spediti in una prigione di
Mosul, «piena di sciiti e cristiani». Tutti venivano picchiati ed è qui
che per la prima volta un jihadista ha ordinato al 14enne di recitare la
professione di fede islamica. Ma lui ha risposto: «Non c’è altro Dio al
di fuori di Gesù». Il terrorista islamico, infuriato, è allora uscito
dalla sua cella, entrando in quella a fianco, dove tenevano gli sciiti,
considerati non musulmani ma eretici. Racconta Matti: «Ha chiesto a un
uomo di convertirsi all’islam, quello ha rifiutato e gli ha sparato in
testa. Poi mi hanno portato nella sua cella, mi hanno mostrato il corpo e
mi hanno detto che se non mi fossi convertito sarei anch’io finito
così. Ero terrorizzato».
Alla fine entrambi sono stati costretti a pronunciare
la professione di fede islamica. «Ma non veniva dal cuore», si
giustifica Matti, «io credo fortemente in Gesù ma ero sotto minaccia e
sotto pressione. Quando dici qualcosa che non viene dal tuo cuore, non
può essere creduta». La finta conversione non ha in alcun modo reso la
vita più facile ai due. Siccome non riuscivano a «memorizzare le
preghiere islamiche» venivano picchiati ogni giorno e torturati con
degli aghi. Anche dopo che sono stati fatti uscire dal carcere, ogni
volta che Matti decideva di non recarsi in moschea al venerdì, veniva
subito trovato, picchiato e minacciato: «Se manchi ancora una volta sei
morto». A Mosul il ragazzino ha anche assistito ad esecuzioni e
Altri cristiani che hanno raggiunto Erbil come loro
nelle ultime settimane hanno parlato di aver subìto le stesse violenze e
torture. Soprattutto, però, i jihadisti li hanno obbligati a togliersi
le croci dal collo, a calpestare le immagini di Gesù e Maria, a
profanare la propria coscienza. E se gli esempi di coraggio e martirio
non mancano, anzi abbondano, non tutti hanno avuto la stessa forza.
Durante i due anni di prigionia Nasi non ha «mai smesso di pregare Maria e Gesù
nel mio cuore e piangere. Pregavo per la salvezza di mio figlio, il mio
dono di Dio». E poche settimane fa l’avanzata dell’esercito iracheno ha
permesso loro di scappare. Matti non può «ancora credere di esserne
uscito vivo». Una delle prime cose che hanno fatto, una volta portati a
Erbil, è stato chiedere a un sacerdote la gravità di quello che avevano
compiuto: recitare la professione di fede islamica sotto minaccia di
morte. Ma nessuno li ha accusati. «Due preti sono venuti a visitarci e
ci hanno detto di non preoccuparci», racconta Nasi, sollevata. Ricorda
anche le parole esatte: «Ci hanno detto: “Voi non avete più niente da
temere ora. Noi siamo il vostro popolo, noi siamo la vostra famiglia”».
Padre Siman non ha dubbi: «Riceveranno solo amore da Dio e dalla Chiesa.
Sono stati obbligati ad accettare qualcosa in cui non credevano.
Dovremmo accusarli forse? No». Per tanti altri sono state organizzate
nuove cerimonie di battesimo.
Matti e Nasi ora vivono in un piccola stanza di un centro per sfollati a Erbil
gestito dalla Chiesa. L’unico ornamento sono i rosari che pendono sui
loro letti. Per quanto salvi, non possono dimenticare il trauma vissuto e
sono giunti a una scelta tragica e sofferta. «Abbiamo passato due anni
terribili sotto l’Isis», spiega Matti. «Non vogliamo tornare indietro. E
non vogliamo neanche restare in Iraq. Vogliamo solo andarcene, per
lasciarci alle spalle tutto questo dolore».
Their town now liberated, Iraqi Christians talk of life under ISI
lunedì, dicembre 05, 2016
archbishops from Iraq and Syria were refused entry into the UK despite
being invited by the country’s Syriac Orthodox Church.
Archbishop Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf of Mosul, Archbishop of St
Matthew’s Timothius Mousa Shamani and Archbishop Selwanos Boutros
Alnemeh of Homs and Hama, were all refused UK visas which would have
enabled them to attend the consecration of the UK’s first Syriac
Orthodox Cathedral, last month.
The bishops were told that they were refused entry because they did
not have sufficient funds to support themselves and because they might
not leave the UK.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, said he was incredulous when he heard the
news. He said: “When the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch told me that these
two bishops had been refused visas to come to the UK for the
consecration of the new Syrian Orthodox cathedral I greeted it with
incredulity and disbelief. Its a decision that brings shame on our
“These amazingly courageous bishops come from the Mosul region of
Iraq – where Christians have been beheaded, crucified, raped and either
forcibly converted or forced to flee as their possessions have been
seized by radical Islamists. It adds insult to injury that the UK would
refuse admission to men who pose no threat and whose community has
suffered so much – especially when we still fail to bring to justice
Jihadists who have committed genocide.”
In an editorial, the Daily Express condemned the decision, saying:
“While we appreciate the necessity of efficient border controls, surely
it can’t be beyond the wit of a Home Office pencil-pusher to realise
that these men of the cloth were a special case?
“Last week we learned that 650,000 immigrants made their way to
Britain, the highest level yet. And yet somehow, while letting all these
in, officials contrived to ban these three wise men who have risked
their lives for the Christian faith.
“Mary and Joseph were told there was no room at the inn. At this time
of the year in particular we would do well to be more mindful of the
The UK’s Syriac Orthodox Christians Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod
told the Daily Express: “These are men who have pressing pastoral
responsibilities as Christian areas held by IS are liberated. That is
why we cannot understand why Britain is treating Christians in this
Meanwhile, the SNP MP, Kirsten Oswald, raised a similar issue at Prime Minister’s Questions last week.
The MP told the House: “Guests from the Hyderabad diocese have twice
been refused visas to visit the Church of Scotland presbytery of Glasgow
as part of a twinning initiative, the suggestion being that the visit
was not genuine, despite the paperwork being correct and the Church
bearing the costs.
“When I raised this with the Leader of the House, he spoke of the
need for people to return home after visits, and then the Immigration
Minister told me in a patronising letter how to apply for a visa. Will
the Prime Minister tell the Church why its visitors are not welcome and
what messages she thinks it sends to our faith communities?”
The Prime Minister responded by saying that the Home Secretary should look into the case.
The Syriac Catholic patriarch said he was horrified to see widespread
devastation and what he called "ghost towns" during a recent visit to
Joseph III Younan wrote in an email to
Catholic News Service that there was little left in some of the communities that he
toured Nov. 27-29 and that "the emptiness of the streets except for
military people ... the devastation and burned-out houses and churches"
100,000 Christians -- among them more than 60,000
Syriac Catholics -- were expelled from the Ninevah Plain by the Islamic
State group in the summer of 2014 as the
militants campaigned to expand their reach into Iraq.
Patriarch Younan also called for understanding from the incoming administration
of President-elect Donald Trump about the plight and ordeal of all minorities,
including Christians affected by violence in the region.
The patriarch told CNS about "walking through
the Christian towns of Qaraqosh,
Bartella and Karamles and witnessing the extent of devastation as if we
had entered ghost towns!"
Graffiti and inscriptions "expressing hatred
toward Christian symbols and doctrine were seen everywhere" on walls near streets,
outside and inside houses and churches, he wrote.
from the looting, destruction of and damage to buildings, we discovered that
the terrorists, out of hatred to the Christian faith, set fire to most of the buildings, including churches, schools,
kindergartens and hospitals," the patriarch's message said, noting that
only Christian properties were targeted.
In Qaraqosh -- once inhabited by more than 50,000
Christians -- the patriarch celebrated the Eucharist Nov. 28 "on an
improvised small altar" in the incinerated sanctuary of the vandalized
Church of the Immaculate Conception. That church, which had 2,200 seats before
its desecration by Islamic State, was built by parishioners in the 1930s.
people could attend the liturgy, among them a few
clergy and some armed youth and media representatives, the patriarch said.
"In my short homily, I just wanted to strengthen their
faith in the redeemer's altar and cross, although both were half broken behind
us. I reminded them that we Christians are the descendants of martyrs and
confessors, with a long history dating back to the evangelization of the apostles,"
"I had the intention after its restoration five years
ago, and still have it, to ask the Holy Father, the pope, to name this church
as a minor basilica," the patriarch added.
In addition to the Church of the Immaculate Conception in
Qaraqosh, all of the churches the patriarch's delegation visited, including St.
Behnam and St. Sarah Monastery, which dates to the fourth century, sustained
significant damage or were destroyed.
opening the trip Nov. 27 in Irbil, which escaped being occupied by the
militants, Patriarch Younan celebrated Mass for more
than 800 displaced people at Our Lady of Peace Syriac Catholic Church. Located
in the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq, where many of those uprooted from
the Ninevah Plain sought refuge, the church recently opened to serve refugees.
Concelebrating the liturgy were Syriac Catholic Archbishops
Yohanna Moshe of Mosul
and Ephrem Mansoor Abba of Baghdad
and 20 priests. Patriarch Younan said he felt "mixed feelings" among
the worshippers, who were pleased that the Islamic State group had been forced
out of the Ninevah Plain during the current Iraqi military campaign, but also
were saddened because of the "horrendous state" in which the
militants left their communities.
The patriarch also said he met with the faith
community, religious leaders and nongovernmental organizations to discuss the
future of Christianity in northern Iraq.
Based on "what happened in recent times," the
patriarch noted, "it was the overall opinion that none would dare to
return, rebuild and stay in the homeland, unless a safe zone for the Christian
communities in the Plain of Ninevah is guaranteed."
called for a "stable, law-abiding and strong government" to support
the establishment of an eventual self-administrative province under
the central government of Iraq.
"I therefore reiterate what I have been saying for
years. We, Christians in Iraq and Syria, feel abandoned, even betrayed, by the
Western politicians of recent times," Patriarch Younan said.
"We have been sold out for oil and forgotten because
of our small number compared to the 'Islamic Ummah' (Islamic nation) in
which we have lived for centuries."
The patriarch urged the "so-called 'civilized world'
to uphold its principles and to seriously defend" the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, which he described as "vital for our
"It is time to stand up and condemn those regimes that
still discriminate against non-Muslim communities, with (their) excuses such as
... 'our law, our education and governing system' are based on our 'particularities
of culture, history and religion,'" the patriarch continued.
Patriarch Younan expressed his "strong hope" that
the Trump administration "will understand our plight and the ordeal of all
minorities, including Christians."
"It is time that the United States be respected around
the world," and most particularly in the Middle East, as "a nation of hope and freedom and not a land of opportunism."
is the ancient Mesopotamia which was the cradle of civilizations:
Sumerian, Acadian, Babylonian, Chaldean, Assyrian, Persian, Jewish,
Christian, and Arab Muslim. This is a national and international
There are many archeological Sites and many old churches and
monasteries everywhere in Iraq, because Christians were the majority
there before the arrival of Arab Muslims in 7th century.
The escalation of religious and ethnic conflict across the region
demonstrates the urgent need for action on the part of the international
community to protect and preserve this Cultural Heritage.
The looting of hundreds of priceless artifacts from the Iraqi National
Museum followed the US invasion of Baghdad in 2003, and the Mosul Museum
in mid-2014 by Islamic State extremists is a big loss. Isis jihadists
started a real rampage to erase anything that pre-dated the Islamic era
and everything does not fit with their ideology.
The destruction of Nabi Younis and Nabi Jorjis mosques, and most
significant ancient sites like Nimrud and Hatra (Hadhar), and churches
and monasteries and they have burnt hundreds of Manuscripts.
The international community should engage the Iraqi government and
other governments in the region to ensure the preservation and
protection of this multi-millennia’s patrimony and its restoration with a
There are some encouraging signs. Father Najib Mussa, a Dominican
father founded the "Centre numérique des Manuscrits Orientaux" in Mosul
in 1990 and has started to document the manuscripts of churches and
monasteries, and has filmed 7500 manuscripts and he restored some
damaged ones. CDs and catalogues are available in the Dominican center
We hope also the ancient sites, old churches, monasteries, and mosques might be slowly rebuilt in the right way.
The situation is still unsecure and
even when Isis is defeated, its ideology will continue and new conflicts
can rise therefore I would like to present some practical and urgent
1. To create a safe haven for the preservation and the storage of the
cultural heritage in danger, with the agreement (convention), of the
Iraqi government or at least to establish a monitoring office of UN to
2. To Train Iraqi teams by experts in how to deal with this cultural
heritage that has been here for thousands of years. How to document it,
to protect and to restore: sites, old objects, churches, monasteries,
synagogues, masques and manuscripts in a right way.
3. To equip them with modern and sophisticated tools to do such skillful work.
giovedì, dicembre 01, 2016
European leaders gathered this week at a conference in Vienna to
discuss Christian persecution and its resounding effect on Europe,
particularly emphasizing the need to seriously address religious
discrimination and genocide around the world.
“The persecution faced by Christians around the world must be
recognized and treated by the international community with the
seriousness it deserves,” Ellen Fantini, executive director of the
Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians, stated
“The pressure faced by Christians in Europe is much more subtle – what Pope Francis has called ‘polite persecution.’”
The conference, entitled “Embattled: Christians Under Pressure in
Europe and Beyond,” drew more than 100 attendees. It was held at the
archbishop’s palace in Vienna, with the hope of informing the public,
lawmakers and officials of the ongoing threats of religious persecution.
The event was organized by the Observatory on Intolerance and
Discrimination Against Christians in partnership with ADF International,
Open Doors, Aid to the Church in Need, and Christian Solidarity
International, which additional support from the Federalist Society for
Law and Public Policy Studies.
In the spotlight at the conference was a North Korean native, Timothy
C., who was forced to leave his country or face imminent death because
of his religion. Other similar stories surfaced throughout the event,
including those of Nigerian Christians killed by Boko Haram.
According to Jan Figel, the EU Special Envoy for Religious Freedom,
over 100,000 Christians are killed every year due to religious
persecution. Figel underscored the importance of not remaining silent
during times of persecution, and pointed to the example of German
theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
“Those who do not understand religion and misuse religion cannot
understand what is happening in the world,” Figel stated during his
opening keynote address.
Figel’s statements were echoed by Swedish MEP Lars Adaktusson, who
called the current persecution and killings of religious groups in the
Middle East “genocide.”
“We must never hesitate in the defense of religious freedom. In the
end, it is about standing up for a value-based foreign policy based on
human dignity and human rights,” Adaktusson stated.
The Swedish MEP also spoke of his time in Northern Iraq, saying the
evidence of persecution was significant. In the Middle East, Adaktusson
noted that he saw “the signs of deliberate destruction and contempt for
the beliefs of others,” pointing to destroyed churches, books, and
crosses at the hands of the Islamic State.
In addition, Auxiliary Bishop Stephan Turnovszky of Vienna
highlighted the marginalization of refugees in Europe, who are “often
subjected here to violence, threats, and discrimination on the basis of
their Christian faith.”
The conference additionally called into question European
governments' role with regard to conscience, freedom of speech, and
parental rights, which have been increasingly restrictive and invasive.
While the government has enhanced its control, Bishop Turnovszky
believes that Europe is failing to protect people because of their
Moving forward, Gudrun Kugler, member of the Vienna Regional
Parliament, encouraged individuals to contact public officials in order
to raise awareness of religious discrimination, and to start making
strides to prevent persecution.
Kugler believes both individuals and organizations should work to
“create space for Christians in Europe and to address the atrocities
committed against Christians around the world.”