Mgr Nona talks to AsiaNews about the “general indifference” that surrounds the deaths, violence and attacks in his country. Even though people need “peace and serenity”, the elections “did not bring any major change.” For his small Christian community, “life is getting harder every day. [. . .] We have been waiting for improvements, but we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel”.
Mosul (AsiaNews) – “We are confident that the Church around the world will pray for Iraq,” but the West and its governments seem to have “forgotten” the tragedy of its people. “It is as deaths, attacks and violence have become routine,” said Mgr Shimoun Emil Nona, Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, northern Iraq.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the prelate described the mood in the country and the city, where bloodshed is a daily occurrence, and where the Christian community is steadily shrinking in size.
“No one is talking about us anymore,” he lamented. “Yet, we hope that” others will feel Iraq’s “plight once more, that they will feel our need for peace and serenity. This is what we want more than anything else.”
In recent years, the Diocese of Mosul has mourned the violent death of its pastors, including a former bishop, Mgr Faraj Rahho (during a kidnapped), and Fr Ragheed Ganni. The city of Mosul itself is a stronghold of Sunni Wahhabi fundamentalism, with close ties with Saudi Arabia.
In recent days, a group of militants launched an attack on a military post in the village of Ayn al-Jahish, not far from the city, another Islamist stronghold in northern Iraq, killing more than 20 soldiers.
Similar incidents have taken place in the recent past with as target the special units of the Iraqi security forces, and the soldiers protecting the pipeline carrying crude oil to international markets.
Indeed, attacks on pipelines are commonplace in the Mosul area, which is located some 360 ??km north-west of Baghdad, and carried out largely by groups linked to al Qaeda and others jihadist groups that have sown death and destruction for years across the nation.
What is more, minorities have paid a huge price because they are powerless and politically unorganised when it comes to protecting their interests.
“The situation has not changed much in the last few months,” Mgr Nona explained. “The elections represented a big step” because the attacks and “the killings were happening on an almost every day.”
Authorities often impose a “curfew on the city, with the army setting up road blocks. This makes it difficult to go from one point to another” in the city, especially “for ordinary people.”
“We are almost always in an emergency situation,” he noted, “but people seem to have become accustomed to the difficulties of everyday life.” In particular, “our small Christian community is going through what others are going through, experiencing difficulties that are growing every day.”
Since 2003, “we have been waiting for improvements, but we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel” and the problems remain the same.
Still, there is hope that “something will change with the elections,” that a “strong and united government will emerge, able to address and solve the problems of insecurity, poor services and infrastructures,” as well as unemployment.
“Mosul’s Christian community continues to hope and pray for a more mature Iraqi society, one that is more accepting of different groups,” Mgr Nona said, “because living with and accepting others has become a more urgent and difficult imperative.” Despite the lack of security, “our goal is to build something that is more open and moderate.”
Sadly, Christians have responded and continue to respond to insecurity by leaving. “In the big cities, the Church cannot do much,” the prelate said.
Christian leaders have tried to deal with some of the issues, but ultimately it is up to the Iraqi government to settle the larger ones and solve the main problems.
“For us Christians, it is important to be present in the country and its institutions, but the number of the faithful is increasingly dwindling,” Mgr Nona noted. “The greatest menace lies in the fact that those who leave are, in most cases, the educated and wealthy, whilst the poor and the weak remain; exactly those who do not have any chance to escape.” (DS)