Christmas scenes from Irbil
Pray, help, give witness for the Iraqi Christians
We are here, they are there. They are our brothers, our sisters, they need us to share Christmas with them.
Put yourself in their place. You lose everything overnight, your home, your work, and your possessions. You are threatened with death by those who were your neighbors. And you leave, giving up everything and becoming a refugee family, 100 miles from home, in your own country. This is what our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq have been living for months, they who have always lived in this country, and have previously hosted those who are chasing them out today.
In Ankawa, the Christian quarter of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, the temporary becomes sustainable. Tens of thousands of Christians sought refuge here last August, fleeing Mosul, Qaraqosh, the Nineveh Plain overrun by Daesh killers. Since last summer they have piled into tents, sheds, a hotel under construction and even an abandoned mall. They wait. Between conversion, death and departure, they chose, so to speak, to leave everything behind except their faith. Their only "crime": to be Christians.
What a lesson in faith, hope and courage they give us. And when you meet them, when you speak with them, how not to be appalled, not to ask, and I, what would I have done in their place? Would I have had the same courage, the same strength? Am I really ready to die for my faith? All this may seem far removed from the spirit of Christmas. Yet it is inseparable: here, or there, we share the same faith. Their Christmas is our Christmas, their prayers are our prayers. Without them to give us the example, basically, what kind of Christians would we be? It is our support, our prayers, our gifts that will help them, gradually, to rebuild their lives that are now suspended. To have the courage to stay in Iraq and, one day, to return to their home.
May the Virgin brought early December from Fourvière by Mgr Barbarin help release Mosul and the Nineveh Plain tomorrow from Islamic occupation, as long ago she protected the people of Lyon from the plague.