First Communion for Iraqi Refugees Represents Hope for a Persecuted People (1215)

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‘What God is giving us in faith and strength is helping us to give more, and that by itself will bring us closer to God,” said Sister Waffa Yousif, who helped train the 30 first communicants.
05/24/2016 Comment
Firas Pack photos

Iraqi Christian children, uprooted from their homes in the Nineveh Plain by the Islamic State in the summer of 2014, make their First Solemn Communion with Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Beirut, Lebanon.

– Firas Pack photos

BEIRUT — Outside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Beirut, Lebanon, the children could hardly contain their excitement.

All the suffering of their lives in forced exile seemed to vanish as they anticipated the holy sacrament for which they had so diligently prepared. Two girls joined hands and gleefully spun each other around.

Dressed in white robes adorned with wooden rosaries on the eve of Pentecost, the 30 Iraqi refugee children quickly composed themselves when Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan arrived from the nearby patriarchate. They assembled reverently for the processional, folding their hands in prayer.

“This is the day we were waiting for. … O Jesus, you are closest to my heart,” they sang, as they led their shepherd to the altar.

The patriarchate had taken care of every detail to make first Communion special for the children and their families.

“Dear children, it is something very special that you will receive today — the Lord into your hearts — while you are displaced and suffering like him, because of being uprooted from your homes in the Plain of Nineveh to become exiled in a foreign land, Lebanon,” Patriarch Younan said in his homily.

Shared Trauma of Persecution