Commenting on the long-troubled Christian communities of Iraq, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul said that Easter celebrations after Iraq’s general elections gave “new hope” to the people, with attendance at the Easter liturgy showing an increase over previous years.
More than 3,500 Christians had fled Mosul after a series of violent attacks on Christians before the March 7 elections, but many have returned in recent days.
Speaking on Tuesday with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Amil Nona said Christians now have new hope.
“The people clearly feel more confident after the elections. They have faith that things will now improve.”
“The Easter celebrations went very, very well. I am really happy about the way it went and it was clear the people felt happy too,” he told ACN. “You had people coming to the church who had not come for two or three years.”
The archbishop reported that security was high, with armed men posted outside the four churches in Mosul where Chaldean Catholic services were held.
Archbishop Nona became the world’s youngest Catholic archbishop at the age of 42 when he replaced Archbishop Farraj Rahho, who was kidnapped outside his cathedral in February 2008. He died in captivity two weeks later.
Elsewhere, Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako told ACN that Easter celebrations were also peaceful in his city. A delegation of local government officials and Muslim religious leaders attended the services.
In the north of Iraq, the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, known as the Chaldean Sisters, provided Easter packages for 750 of the poorest families in villages outside the ancient Christian city of Zakko near the border with Syria and Turkey.
Fr. Bashar Warda, coordinator of the project, reported to ACN from outside Erbil, the regional capital in the Kurdish-controlled north.
The priest said the initiative was again a great success. The number of items in each package had been reduced from previous years to allow outreach to more families. Many families face extreme poverty since they fled their homes in the south and are desperate to start a new life abroad, he reported.
“The people were very happy to receive their hampers. The situation for them is very difficult and they are very grateful for the help they receive.”
The peace in some parts of Iraq contrasted with violence in Baghdad, where at least five people died and 140 were injured in six separate explosions.