Christians, Yazidis, Muslims: voices from Iraq waiting for the Pope (I)

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The Papal visit bears three messages: hope, peace and coexistence and it is a “dream come true”. A thank you to the Yazidis for their support over the years. Sunni Muslim: “We want to pray together with Christians”, a stimulus from the Pope “to arise and rebuild”.

MOSUL: A “dream that becomes reality” in a perspective of interreligious dialogue and coexistence that is strengthened and that must “unite” all Iraqi citizens. In a country that awaits the upcoming apostolic journey of Pope Francis, the theme of the relations and dialogue between different religions, under the motto “You are all brothers”, is one of the main and debated aspects. For the Christian journalist Mery Aoraha Marawge, his presence will strengthen “faith in one God, as children of Abraham”. For a 49-year-old Peshmerga Yazidi, a native of Sinjar, one of the worst hit areas by the Islamic State (SI, formerly Isis), Francis “is a great man on a spiritual level” who in recent years has also been there for us”. Nori Faesl Youni, a Sunni Muslim from Nineveh, hopes that the visit will bring “peace after divisions, fanaticism, the extremism that has been instilled in us” and “for this we want to pray together with Christians”.

This series of voices and testimonies explores the themes that characterize the apostolic journey: meeting the Christian community; deepen the relationship between different religions; discover Iraq. These voices and the hope they express were gathered thanks to the collaboration of Fr Paolo Thabit Mekko, head of the Christian community in Karamles, in the Nineveh plain, and of Fr. Samir Youssef, pastor of the diocese of Amadiya, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Here is what they have shared:

Mery Aoraha Marawge, retired Christian journalist, 56, Enishke
The Pope in Iraq, in Mesopotamia, in my land, is a dream come true. The real value in this visit is theme “We are all brothers” in faith in one God, as children of Abraham. This aspect gives us strength and positive energy to live in peace, practicing our prayers and our faith in freedom. I hope that his arrival will bring peace, stability, security and mutual respect between all religions and that the journey will take place in peace and in complete safety.

Shamo Khoded Qolo, 49-year-old Yazidi, Peshmerga soldier from Sinjar
We prepared for this visit by studying the figure of the pope. After we emigrated here to Enishke, Kurdistan, we loved him even more and we appreciate his closeness, the support for our cause, the fact that he sent Vatican representatives to visit us. For us Yazidis the Pope is a great man on a spiritual level. We are in his heart; we are not forgotten because he also thinks of us. We share the happiness of our Christian brothers and we participate in this expectation, because we have become one family. All of the events that have been organised are an encouragement to live together, accept one another, and have a great spiritual, social and cultural dimension. In Mosul he will see the destruction, with the helicopter flight he will also be able to see the devastation in Sinjar, my hometown, pray to heaven for all the Yazidi victims and work for the women who are still in the hands of ISIS. Finally, I hope he can encourage the government to rebuild Sinjar and we will stand by him in defending the weak and fighting for the good of the oppressed.

Reeta Riyadh, 26-year-old Christian housewife, Karamles
We welcome Pope Francis to Iraq with joy, an important visit for peace and dialogue. This takes on particular significance for Christians, who are experiencing difficult times in our country due to the violence of the recent past.

Nori Faesl Younis, Sunni Muslim, teacher, Nineveh
As an Iraqi citizen, Pope Francis’ visit has great significance for me. Iraq is thirsty for visits like this, we need encouragement, a stimulus to arise and rebuild after the destruction and corruption. His coming will do a lot for the country, drawing the world’s attention to us, strengthening relations on a religious and cultural level, capturing glances on our history, culture, civilization, the coexistence of religions. I also hope he will be a harbinger of peace after the divisions, fanaticism and extremism that has been instilled in us. And I also hope that his motto “We are all Brothers” will take root in our hearts, in all Iraqis, that he can plant the seed of peace and love that Jesus Christ taught to humanity. For this we want to pray together with Christians, so that they too remain attached to this land, the land of their fathers, and do not think about migrating to foreign nations.

Riyadh Gilyana, 60-year-old Christian father of a family, Karamles
This it is a historic event, the first Pope to visit Iraq to see with his own eyes and get to know the condition of Christians first hand. This takes on even greater value after all the violence, destruction, displacement and devastation of homes [at the hands of ISIS and jihadist groups]. We really hope that this trip can be a gesture of goodwill towards all Iraqi citizens.

Shamy Hawel Iskharia, 34-year-old Christian teacher and catechist, Duhok
The arrival of the Pope carries three messages: hope, peace and coexistence. For some time, the country has been waiting for a visit by a Pope, a dream for St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI that finds fulfilment with Francis, who will realize the idea of ??his predecessors. His motto is an invitation that applies to us and to the whole world, that of being brothers. And in meeting with all the religious leaders in Ur, the land of Abraham, he will give a great boost, a strong encouragement to human fraternity. Finally, we would like the Pope through this visit to tell all Iraqis, all religious leaders and politicians that we are brothers and sisters in this suffering nation. No more refugees, no more violence, no more killing each other!––Asia News