Loading
Persecution leading Iraqi Christians to draw harsh conclusions
By Alan Holdren, Rome Correspondent
Victims of Baghdad cathedral attack say goodbye at Rome's Gemelli Hospital
Victims of Baghdad cathedral attack say goodbye at Rome's Gemelli Hospital

.- With Christmas fast approaching, Iraqi Christians are coming to the hard realization that there may be a day when there are no more Christians left in their homeland.

“Christians are being extinguished in Iraq, while Iraq remains Muslim,” said Father Georges Jahola, a Syro-Catholic priest from Mosul, Iraq currently studying in Rome.

Those who remain want to leave because they do not feel safe, he said. “They see that there is no longer a place for Christians in Iraq. Even for us as a Church, we cannot deny it.”

For the past five weeks, Fr. Jahola has spent many hours ministering to victims of the Oct. 31 terror attack on Baghdad's Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation. Some of those most badly wounded in the attack, which left 58 dead, were flown to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.

At Gemelli, he has been there to provide spiritual support to the patients and their families and to serve as an intermediary in an environment where they don’t speak the local language.

His close bond with the people was instantly visible Dec. 16 as he met with CNA in the hospital’s residence foyer, where the Iraqis have been living. The time has come for some to leave, while others remain in treatment.

They all know those who are going home face an uncertain future.

They are returning to Iraq, Fr. Jahola said, because they cannot bear the thought of living anywhere else. “Even if it costs them their lives,” he added.

Attacks on Christians in Iraq have continued since the cathedral massacre. On Dec. 15, Syro-Catholic Archbishop Athanase Matoka of Baghdad, told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France: “The Christians of Iraq live in fear of the future.”

The Catholic archbishops in both Mosul and Kirkuk have already canceled Christmas vigil celebrations and announced sharply limited Mass schedules for Christmas day due to the threat of terrorism, according to the Italian bishops’ news agency, SIR.

Fr. Jahola acknowledged stories that have circulated among the Iraqis who are fleeing their homeland. He said he believes reports that Christian homes have been marked with red crosses as targets for Islamic extremists. The crosses are a warning of violence to come, he said. They are a sign, he said, that “these people are in (the) Church, so they are still alive. … that we still need to eliminate them.”

No place in Iraq, not even the more peaceful Kurdistan region, provides certainty for Christians to live safely, he said.

Fr. Jahola said that since the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, every effort to protect Christians has failed. He criticized the walled compounds erected by the Iraqi government around church buildings as a sign of the government’s “incapacity” to keep the situation under control. 

Meanwhile, the “decimation” of Christians continues, Fr. Jahola said. Their numbers have been more than cut in half from a population that 10 years ago was estimated around 1.5 million.

“It is alarming, that an ethnic people — a people who speak the ancient Aramaic language and have Christian roots — is being made extinct in the world. And no one intervenes,” he said.

As he pondered the fate of the many who are leaving Iraq, tears welled up in his eyes.

It is no simple thing to leave one’s homeland, he said, adding: “It's just not possible that all Iraqi Christians leave, but also dying there causes us grief.”

Fr. Jahola said that although it seems “absurd,” to return to Iraq, he plans to do so himself when he finishes his studies.

He believes the Iraqi population, shrinking though it may be, has a “unique destiny to maintain with the faith.”

The Baghdad cathedral attack inspired in him strength and resolve that he did not know he had.

“This for me is the strength of the martyrs who witnessed to their faith in the Church,” he said. “For me, I haven't yet done what I need to do, so that awaits me.”


Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
The tombs of the early Christians
Missionaries of Africa, called "the White Fathers"
Italian youth give testimony after mission to Peru
Interview with Iraqi Ambassador to the Holy See on the persecution of Christians
New book 'The Vatican unknown'
A Look at India from Rome
3D Church mapping
#PAUSEforPeace Initiative
Dedicating art to San Juan de la Cruz
A state without territory elects new government
The renewal of the Legionaries of Christ
Presentation of the book "The Pastor"
Aug
30

Liturgical Calendar

August 30, 2014

Saturday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 25:14-30

Gospel
Date
08/30/14
08/29/14
08/28/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: 1 Cor 1: 26-31
Gospel:: Mt 25: 14-30

Saint of the Day

St. Jeanne Jugan »

Saint
Date
08/30/14
08/28/14

Homily of the Day

Mt 25:14-30

Homily
Date
08/30/14
08/29/14
08/28/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: