Erbil, Iraq, Aug 8, 2016 / 14:02 pm
Fr. Roni Salim Momika, one of three priests ordained in an Erbil refugee camp Friday, said the event has turned the dreary mood of displaced Christians into one of joy, which he hopes will give them the strength to stay in their homeland.
“My feeling is happy, happy!” Fr. Momika told CNA after his Aug. 5 ordination, adding that he feels “something inside” that makes him deeply joyful.
He was ordained a priest of the Syriac-Catholic Church alongside his friends and fellow deacons Emad and Petros in the large, prefabricated church inside Erbil’s Aishty 2 camp for the displaced, which is home to some 5,500 people forced to flee their homes due to ISIS.
The ordination, he said, “will give hope to (the people)” in the camp, mostly Syriac Catholics from Qaraqosh, who for two years have been forced to live as refugees.
Fr. Momika, who is from Qaraqosh, noted how Aug. 6 marks the exact two-year anniversary since ISIS attacked his hometown, driving out inhabitants who didn’t meet their demands to convert to Islam, pay a hefty tax or face death.
“We left Qaraqosh during this time two years ago,” he said, explaining that it’s been “a time of challenge” and “a time of sadness” for the Christians.
However, while the anniversary could serve as a reminder of the bleak and uncertain reality for Christians in Iraq, the sight of three young men being ordained to the priesthood has instead made it “a happy time, a hopeful time, and a good time,” Fr. Momika said.
“Before it was a bad day because we became refuges and ISIS entered to Qaraqosh, but now this day became a good day because it’s our ordination and we give hope to our people,” including the hope “to stay here,” he said.