mercoledì, settembre 20, 2017

 

Iraq: Acs, il 28 settembre, a Roma, conferenza internazionale per ricostruire villaggi cristiani della Piana di Ninive. Intervento del card. Parolin

By SIR

“Iraq, ritorno alle radici”: è il titolo della conferenza internazionale, promossa da Aiuto alla Chiesa che soffre (Acs), che si svolgerà il 28 settembre a Roma, presso la Pontificia Università Lateranense, durante la quale sarà illustrato il progetto di ricostruzione di 13mila case danneggiate o distrutte dall’Isis nei villaggi cristiani della Piana di Ninive, un vero e proprio “Piano Marshall, il cui costo viene stimato il 250 milioni di dollari.
“Questo grande piano – spiega al Sir Alessandro Monteduro, direttore di Acs Italia – non ha solo una valenza umanitaria. Le ricadute benefiche di tale azione sono infatti riconducibili a tre punti fondamentali: difesa della libertà religiosa delle minoranze della nazione irachena, contrasto al terrorismo e attenuazione della pressione migratoria”. Per ciò che riguarda la lotta al terrorismo, Monteduro afferma che “alle necessarie attività di prevenzione e repressione deve accompagnarsi un’opera tesa a prosciugare il brodo di coltura del radicalismo islamico: il ritorno della pacifica comunità cristiana nella Piana di Ninive rappresenta un  importante passo avanti verso la stabilizzazione socio-culturale dell’area”. Ne deriva anche una “attenuazione della pressione migratoria: i cristiani iracheni desiderano continuare a vivere nelle loro terre; aiutare queste famiglie a tornare nelle proprie case significa quindi contribuire a ridurre la tensione sociale che affligge le nazioni che ricevono migranti nel proprio territorio”.
I lavori della conferenza saranno aperti dal segretario di Stato vaticano, il cardinale Pietro Parolin. Con lui il patriarca caldeo Louis Sako, il nunzio apostolico in Iraq e Giordania, mons. Martin Ortega, l’arcivescovo siro-cattolico di Mosul, mons. Yohanna Petros Mouche, mons. Nicodemus Daoud Matti Sharaf, metropolita siro-ortodosso di Mosul e mons. Timothaeus Mosa Alshamany, arcivescovo siro-ortodosso della chiesa di Antiochia. Invitati anche gli ambasciatori presso la Santa Sede delle nazioni Ue e dei maggiori Paesi extra-Ue. La conferenza sarà preceduta, il 27 settembre (ore 17.45) da una veglia di preghiera ecumenica per i cristiani in Medio Oriente nella chiesa romana di san Marco evangelista. Presente il card. Mauro Piacenza, presidente internazionale di Aiuto alla Chiesa che soffre.

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Une statue de la Vierge retirée de Bassora avant son inauguration

19 settembre 2017

Une statue de la Vierge, qui devait être inaugurée mardi dans la ville méridionale de Bassora, a été retirée dans la nuit à la demande de l'épiscopat qui craignait qu'elle suscite des dissensions confessionnelles.
La statue blanche de 5 m de haut et 2 m de large, dont la construction avait notamment été financée par "l'organisation arménienne de Bassora pour le secours et le développement", avait été placée dans un jardin du centre-ville. Ce district portait le nom de Hay Arman (quartier arménien) avant de changer récemment de nom, car la majorité des Arméniens avaient quitté la ville.
"La statue a été transférée à la demande de nos frères chrétiens car celui qui voulait l'ériger cherchait à déstabiliser la situation dans la ville", a affirmé à l'AFP Jabbar al Saïdi, chef du comité de sécurité de la province de Bassora.
Sur place, le journaliste de l'AFP a pu voir qu'il ne restait que la base alors que les ouvriers nettoyaient autour.
Dans une lettre adressée au gouvernement provincial, l'archevêque chaldéen de Bassora, Mgr Habib Hormouz al Naufali, rejette l'initiative d'ériger cette statue en pleine ville.
"Aucun responsable n'a approuvé cette opération qui peut avoir des conséquences graves et conduire à la zizanie entre les différentes confessions de la ville", assure-t-il dans une lettre dont l'AFP a obtenu une copie.
Il note que 90% des chrétiens ont quitté la ville majoritairement chiite depuis l'invasion conduite par les États-Unis en 2003. Il ne reste que 300 familles. "Nous craignons que cette initiative irréfléchie entraîne le départ du reste des familles en raison des tensions confessionnelles", souligne le prélat.
Il propose de bâtir un monument pour toutes les religions et de remiser cette statue de la Vierge dans une église, un monastère ou un cimetière pour éviter qu'elle soit sabotée.
"Nous avions eu l'autorisation officielle d'ériger cette statue qui représente le symbole de la coexistence pacifique à Bassora (...) Nous condamnons le démantèlement de la statue et demandons des explications à l'église et à la municipalité", a déclaré à l'AFP le militant Eczar Nimr, coordonnateur du projet national pour la coexistence pacifique en Irak, qui a participé au projet.
Les chrétiens étaient plus d'un million en Irak avant l'invasion américaine contre moins de 400.000 aujourd'hui.
Le diocèse de Bassora compte quinze églises dont seulement quatre sont utilisées pour le culte.

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Bassora, rimossa una statua della Madonna per 'evitare le tensioni fra le comunità religiose'

By Asia News

Le autorità provinciali hanno trasferito una statua della Vergine la notte precedente alla sua inaugurazione. È avvenuto nella città di Bassora, nel sud dell’Iraq. Alta cinque metri e larga due, la scultura tutta bianca è stata rimossa su per richiesta dell’episcopato caldeo, timoroso che la sua presenza provocasse tensione fra le diverse comunità religiose.
La statua era stata costruita con il finanziamento della “organizzazione armena di Bassora per il soccorso e lo sviluppo”, ed era stata installata in un giardino al centro della città.
In passato, la zona era conosciuta come “Hay Arman” (quartiere armeno), per via della sua popolazione in maggioranza armena, prima che la comunità abbandonasse quasi totalmente la città.
Uno dei militanti dell’iniziativa e coordinatore del progetto nazionale per la coesistenza pacifica in Iraq, Eczar Nimr, ha contestato la decisione di rimuovere la scultura: “Noi avevamo l’autorizzazione ufficiale di erigere questa statua che rappresenta il simbolo della coesistenza pacifica a Bassora… Condanniamo lo smantellamento della statua e chiediamo spiegazioni alla chiesa e al municipio”.
Il capo del comitato di sicurezza della provincia sostiene che il trasferimento della scultura è “avvenuto su richiesta dei nostri fratelli cristiani, visto che chi ha voluto erigerla ha cercato di destabilizzare la situazione nella città”.
L’arcivescovo caldeo mons. Habib Hormouz al-Naufali si era opposto già da tempo all’installazione della statua. In una lettera scritta al governo provinciale: “Nessun funzionario ha approvato questa operazione [dell’installazione] che potrebbe portare gravi conseguenze e zizzania fra le diverse confessioni religiose della città”. Il prelato ricorda che il 90% dei cristiani ha lasciato la città, in particolare dopo l’occupazione internazionale a guida Usa del 2003. Ad oggi, restano 300 famiglie cristiane nella città e il timore è che eventuali tensioni confessionali le spingano alla fuga.
Mons. Al-Naufali propone di innalzare di un monumento che sia per tutte le religioni e di posizionare la statua della Vergine in una chiesa, un monastero o un cimitero, affinché non venga vandalizzata.
La diocesi di Bassora conta 15 chiese, di cui solo quattro sono utilizzate per la preghiera.
Prima del 2003, in Iraq i cristiani erano più di un milione. Al presente il numero è inferiore a 400mila.

Article de L'Orient le Jour, mardi 19 septembre
Une statue de la Vierge retirée de Bassora avant son inauguration

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martedì, settembre 19, 2017

 

Rebuilding Christian Iraq: Now or never, says missionary priest

John Burger

As the U.S.-backed coalition against the Islamic State group continues its campaign in Iraq, there is a window of opportunity for Christians in the Middle East to return to their homes and keep Christianity from becoming extinct in the region.
But now is the time to grab that opportunity, says a missionary who has worked in Iraq for almost seven years.
“This is a very important moment for the Church in Iraq because if we can’t rebuild their homes all of them are going to leave the country,” Father Luis Montes said in an interview.
And if that happens, the region will lose an important witness to the power of mercy and forgiveness, he said.
Father Montes, who is vicar to the Kurdistan region for Archbishop Jean Sleiman, the Latin-rite archbishop of Baghdad, estimates that 200,000 to 300,000 Christians are left in Iraq. When he arrived in the country in 2003, there were about half a million.
A native of Argentina and ordained a priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word in 1996, Father Montes has spent all of his priesthood in the Middle East. He is now based in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan where many Christians from Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Plain, their home since the early years of Christianity, took refuge from the invading Islamic State in 2014. Widespread destruction of homes and churches was carried out during and after the ISIS occupation of the region, but now the Church is working hard to rebuild cities on the Nineveh Plain, Father Montes said.
“Most Christians who are still in Iraq would like to go back to their houses,” he said. “The problem is the cities are destroyed. The church is fundraising to rebuild their homes.”
The one very big exception, he said, is the city of Mosul, which the Iraqi government declared to be liberated from ISIS earlier this year. Its largely Sunni populace was “tired of the politics of the Shia government of Baghdad, so they received anyone who could change that,” Father Montes said. “When ISIS went there they opened their houses to them. … The Sunni tribes had weapons; they could reject them, but they didn’t. … The Islamic State took the city with no more than 2000 attackers.”
National Public Radio, in a report Monday that examined life in Mosul post-liberation, noted that a lot of Iraqis believe that people in west Mosul particularly invited ISIS in.
“On the west side they are simple people and close-minded — most of them are from the villages around Mosul or from Tel Afar,” Federal Police General Hafedh al-Ta’ie, responsible for security in west Mosul, told NPR. “The ISIS mentality was more prevalent on the west side than the east.”
Father Montes agrees that the Church has no future in Mosul. Christians don’t want to live in a city where most residents are sympathetic to ISIS, he said.
But thousands of Christians are returning to cities and towns on the Nineveh Plain, the area to the north and east of Mosul. About 500 Christian families made a joyous homecoming to the town of Qaraqosh (also known as Baghdeda), the largest of Nineveh’s Christian towns, on September 10. Priests and people holding olive branches processed through the streets chanting hymns in Aramaic, Aid to the Church in Need reported. The Catholic charity has been funding the reconstruction of many of the homes on the Nineveh Plain.
Father Andrzej Halemba, who organized the ceremonies, distributed to each family olive tree saplings symbolizing the Christian families’ return to their roots. Father Halemba, Aid to the Church in Need’s Middle East projects coordinator, urged residents to forgive those who invaded their homeland.
About 2,500 families are expected to be back in Qaraqosh by the end of September.
“If we can rebuild their homes, most of them will stay, and some who went abroad will come back,” Father Montes predicted. “If we cannot help them now they are going to leave, and this is going to be a disaster. The Christians in Muslim countries are the ones preaching with their lives and examples about forgiveness and charity. In the Quran God has 99 beautiful names, such as the Almighty, the Pure, the Provider. But God is not father, God is not love. So the Christians in these communities are like the yeast of the forgiveness and love. So their presence there is very important. That’s why the world should help them now, not in a few years.”
In spite of the region’s conflicts, Father Montes believes he is in “the best place on earth.” Iraq is “poor in every sense, but we have the martyrs. We have Christians who are persecuted for Jesus,” he said. “So we have the strength of God in the hearts of the weakest. As a missionary I am ashamed because I am receiving more than what I am giving to them.”

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lunedì, settembre 18, 2017

 

Legami da un capo all’altro del mondo

Sara Tourn

In un articolo pubblicato online lo scorso 14 settembre, il quotidiano francese di impostazione cattolica La Croix analizza la complessa situazione del cristianesimo orientale attraverso due esempi che pongono la questione del legame, talvolta spinoso, tra le Chiese cristiane d’oriente e le loro diaspore nel mondo.
Nelle ultime settimane il patriarca copto-ortodosso Tawadros II ha salutato con soddisfazione l’espansione della sua comunità in Giappone e Australia. Ha inaugurato una chiesa a Kyoto e un monastero femminile, un grattacielo di 44 piani, nella modernissima Melbourne. Se quella del Giappone è una diaspora relativamente piccola, e quella inaugurata è la prima chiesa copto-ortodossa del Paese, nata per rispondere alle esigenze di fedeli provenienti da Egitto, Etiopia ed Eritrea, la chiesa copto-ortodossa australiana è la terza più grande al mondo (dopo Egitto e Stati Uniti), con 120.000 fedeli.
I rapporti tra nucleo «storico» e diaspore, o periferie, possono però essere difficili, specie in chiese minacciate come quelle cristiane irachene, sia nei loro paesi di origine sia in quelli di approdo.
Ad esempio negli Stati Uniti, tradizionalmente terra di migrazioni che nei secoli hanno accolto le popolazioni più diverse, e che stanno ponendo seriamente in discussione questo loro carattere identitario. Molti cristiani mediorientali hanno trovato rifugio qui (così come in Europa e Australia), nel passato e ancora più ne avrebbero bisogno oggi che le loro terre sono travolte dalle violenze.
Questo spinge i patriarchi a compiere viaggi e visite in queste diaspore per cercare in qualche modo di accompagnarle nel loro percorso «al di fuori della loro culla storica». Louis Raphaël Sako, patriarca cattolico iracheno, dal 2013 patriarca di Babilonia dei Caldei, alla fine di agosto è stato ricevuto da diversi gruppi giovanili della diocesi di San Diego. Il patriarca ha rimarcato la necessità di «creare dei ponti» fra loro, ormai californiani, e i loro giovani fratelli nella fede iracheni. Insieme alla diocesi di San Tommaso a Detroit, quella di San Pietro a San Diego è una delle più importanti del Paese: insieme contano circa 170.000 fedeli e quindici comunità. Il futuro della Chiesa caldea è pertanto anche nelle mani di queste comunità e della loro capacità di essere solidali con i loro fratelli rimasti in Iraq, ha sottolineato il patriarca.
La situazione delle chiese di diaspora non è facile, ha spiegato a La Croix il professor Christian Cannuyer (Facoltà di Teologia dell’Università cattolica di Lille, direttore dell’associazione «Solidarité Orient» in Belgio): «Da una parte hanno la preoccupazione di valorizzare la loro identità, senza creare dei ghetti comunitari, di mantenere una vita parrocchiale incentrata sulle tradizioni, ma anche quella di stringere legami con le comunità rimaste in patria. Esiste inoltre, sicuramente, la volontà dei patriarcati di invogliare i cristiani al ritorno in patria, anche se quelli che lo fanno davvero sono pochi, e più l’esilio si prolunga, più questa volontà si affievolisce».
E ha continuato: «La possibilità di un’estinzione, o quanto meno di una riduzione della comunità cristiana a una percentuale davvero ristretta in Iraq non è più un’ipotesi angosciosa, ma un futuro abbastanza prossimo». Il patriarca ha moltiplicato, negli ultimi mesi, gli appelli, soprattutto ai fedeli originari di Mossul e delle città della piana di Ninive, liberate dal giogo jihadista, «a riprendere rapidamente le loro terre prima che altri lo facciano», per ritrovare «la loro identità e il loro patrimonio».
Eppure sappiamo quanto sarà difficile per loro rispondere a questo appello.


La Croix
14/09/2017
Les patriarches orientaux soignent les liens avec leur diaspora

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Les patriarches orientaux soignent les liens avec leur diaspora

Malo Tresca
14/09/2017

Sa Béatitude Louis Raphaël Sako, patriarche de Babylone des chaldéens, a rendu visite fin août aux fidèles de San Diego aux États-Unis. De son côté, le patriarche copte-orthodoxe Tawadros II saluait l’expansion de sa communauté au Japon et en Australie.
Ces déplacements posent la question de la nature du lien, parfois épineux, qui relie les représentants des Églises orientales avec les chrétiens de la diaspora.
Ils ont trouvé refuge pour trois ou cinq ans ou plus aux États-Unis, en Europe ou encore en Australie. L’émigration des chrétiens du Moyen-Orient, déjà ancienne, s’est encore accélérée ces dernières années en raison des violences qui ensanglantent la région.
Leur départ pousse les patriarches de leurs Églises à multiplier les voyages au chevet de ces diasporas, et à envisager une nouvelle manière d’accompagner leur Église en dehors de son berceau historique. D’autant que pour faciliter leur obtention d’un visa, nombre de leurs fidèles ont fait jouer le « regroupement familial » et ont donc rejoint des communautés installées de plus ou moins longue date sur plusieurs continents.
En septembre, le patriarche copte-orthodoxe Tawadros a inauguré une église au Japon, puis un monastère de religieuses en Australie. De son côté, le patriarche des chaldéens, Louis Raphaël Sako, s’est employé à resserrer les liens avec ses fidèles, désormais californiens, à San Diego (États-Unis).
« Ils ont d’une part le souci de les encourager à valoriser leur identité – sans créer de ghettos communautaires –, à garder une vie paroissiale centrée sur les traditions d’origine, mais aussi à entretenir des liens avec les communautés restées dans les terres mères », explique Christian Cannuyer, professeur à la faculté de théologie de l’Université catholique de Lille, et directeur de l’association « Solidarité Orient »en Belgique.
« Au-delà, il y a bien sûr une volonté, chez les patriarches, d’inciter les chrétiens au retour, même si ceux qui le font sont rares et que plus l’exil se prolonge, plus cette volonté s’étiole ».A l’occasion d’un voyage « éclair » au Japon fin août, le pape copte-orthodoxe Tawadros II a inauguré, à Kyoto, une église pour « répondre aux besoins pastoraux du nombre croissant de croyants orthodoxes en provenance de l’Égypte, de l’Éthiopie ou encore de l’Érythrée ». Sans en donner le nombre précis, le patriarche d’Alexandrie a tenu à saluer, dès son arrivée sur le sol nippon, « l’ouverture de cette nouvelle Église » asiatique.

« Les patriarches non-catholiques ont une latitude beaucoup plus grande pour lancer des démarches, créer des diocèses ou des paroisses dans les diasporas », note Christian Cannuyer.
Le pape copte a ensuite repris l’avion en direction de l’Australie, où il a notamment inauguré à Melbourne un nouveau monastère – Al-Malak Michael Monastery – samedi 9 septembre, et un gratte-ciel de 44 étages, la « Eporo Tower », co-financée par l’Église copte-orthodoxe australienne. L’occasion, pour lui, de réaffirmer aux 120 000 fidèles de la troisième plus grande communauté copte au monde – derrière l’Égypte et les États-Unis – « qu’il ne les oublie pas ».
Dans d’autres Églises orientales plus menacées, les rapports entre le « centre » historique et la périphérie sont parfois plus tendus.
Aux États-Unis, l’Irakien Louis Raphaël Sako, patriarche de Babylone des chaldéens, a été reçu, fin août, par plusieurs groupes de jeunes du diocèse de Saint-Pierre à San Diego. Une visite cruciale pour son Église durant laquelle il a réaffirmé la nécessité de « créer des ponts » avec la jeunesse irakienne.
« La possibilité d’une extinction, ou bien d’une réduction de la communauté chrétienne à une proportion vraiment restreinte en Irak, n’est plus de l’ordre de l’hypothèse angoissée, mais d’un avenir assez proche », rappelle Christian Cannuyer.
Le patriarche a multiplié, ces derniers mois, les appels - notamment à l’égard des fidèles originaires de Mossoul et des villes de la plaine de Ninive, libérées du joug djihadiste - « à reprendre rapidement leurs terres avant que d’autres ne s’en emparent » pour retrouver « leur identité et leur héritage ».

Avec Saint-Thomas-l’Apôtre à Détroit, Saint-Pierre-l’Apôtre à San Diego est l’un des plus importants diocèses chaldéens du pays : à eux deux, ils regroupent environ 170 000 fidèles répartis en quinze communautés. Leur solidarité avec leurs frères restés en Irak est une clé de l’avenir de l’Église chaldéenne.
Cette visite était également symbolique pour le patriarche. Le diocèse de San Diego a en effet été le théâtre, en 2014, d’une grave crise. Plusieurs de ses responsables avaient encouragé l’émigration de nombreux fidèles d’Irak, mais aussi de prêtres et de religieux, sans l’autorisation de leurs supérieurs. Catastrophé par ce qu’il considérait comme un mauvais signal à l’intention des fidèles, le patriarche Sako s’est engagé dans un bras de fer avec eux, menaçant de les suspendre de leur ministère s’ils ne rentraient pas en Irak.
La décision avait alors provoqué de fortes dissensions - nécessitant même, quelques mois plus tard, une intervention vaticane - avec l’évêque ayant accepté de les accueillir sur le sol américain et le reste de l’Église chaldéenne.
Dans l’Église catholique romaine, l’organisation de ces diasporas pose de nombreuses et nouvelles questions, et notamment celui des liens à créer ou à entretenir avec les diocèses latins locaux.« Le code des canons des Églises orientales, promulgué en 1990, limite fortement le pouvoir de juridiction des patriarches en dehors de leur territoire d’origine », souligne ce spécialiste.

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Appeal for a Courageous Dialogue Between Baghdad and Kurdistan


Unfortunately, the pragmatic tactics to uphold positions and gain personal benefits was and is still the overruling policy in Iraq since the fall of the previous regime. As a result and due to the  referendum and the right of self-determination declared by the Government of Kurdistan Region (KRG), the tension with the Iraqi Central Government (ICG) is escalating and raises fears, while others are beating war drums in such a blur situation of conflict.
If, God forbid, there will be a military confrontation, in such devastating circumstances, both socially and economically, the consequences will be disastrous for all Iraqis, especially for minorities, who are always victims and losers. It will be similar to what happened in Nineveh Plain upon the invasion of ISIS terrorists, where minorities were murdered, displaced, and left vulnerably to face demographic change and migration.
It is important that everyone should realize the seriousness and the actual facts of this situation to hurry up and courageously resume the reconciliation negotiations before it is too late. Moreover, it is urgently required to coordinate and bring together a number of internal issues of common concern in order to promote social harmony and civil peace. Wisdom should play a vital role in prevailing the voice of moderation, to defuse the crisis, war is not a solution, and would never be a substitute for dialogue. Frankly, such war cannot be endured by either side.
We as Christians, have no power to preserve our rights and our presence, either in Iraq or in Kurdistan Region. Knowing that, most of the Christian parties and militia are seeking livelihood rather than concerning about Christians’ issues. Therefore, war means migration of the rest of Christians, who will have no presence in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region at all.
Finally, we ask our Lord to inspire the decision makers to do what is right.

+ Louis Raphael Sako

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giovedì, settembre 14, 2017

 

A Letter to the Diocese of Saint Peter the Apostle/ Western USA


His Excellency the Eparch of the Diocese of Saint Peter the Apostle, Bishop Mar Emanuel Shaleta;
Their Excellencies Bishops Mar Sarhad Jammo and Mar Bawai Soro;
Brother-Priests of the Diocese;
Beloved monks and nuns,

Dear sons and daughters of the Diocese from different parishes;
“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7)
In all honesty, I would like to thank all of you for your welcoming hearts, love, faith and your affection to Christ and your Chaldean Church, above anything else. During our pastoral visit, you were a living example of what a believer ought to be.  Accordingly, we, more than once, stated to you that “you have a place in our hearts, and we are proud of you.”  We are confident that you will continue the same with your new bishop.  I ask you to embrace him: “Be in harmony with your bishop in everything you do… Be in harmony with him as the harp is with its strings” (The Letter of Ignatius of Antioch to the Philadelphians, chapter 3).
My beloved, the days we spent with you were indeed a celebration. I thank, with deep gratitude, all the people who accompanied us throughout our visit and those who organized the celebrations and gatherings. Our thanks are extended as well to the Chaldean League for its diverse activities and its interest in the affairs of the Chaldean people.
My brothers and sisters: maintain the urgency for Christ in your hearts and attitudes. Loyalty must only be to Him and to the Church.  “Everything belongs to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God” (I Corinthians 3:23).   From this perspective, Christ shall remain your ultimate example in the road of examining God’s love, His mercy in pain, death and resurrection in an atmosphere of glory, light and joy.
I also call upon you to fortify your relationship with the Chaldean Patriarchate by abiding by the laws and rules issued by the Holy Synod. Compliance with this relationship, the laws and the liturgical regulations shall provide you immunity in favor of the unity of our church and partnership with it, regardless of any distances or disparities. Let your relationship to each other be that of love and companionship to Chaldean and Christian values. Do not be concerned or touched by the arrogant and conceited voices, which only know the language of bickering, pointing fingers and cursing. May the Lord God enlighten their hearts with His knowledge and love.
In conclusion, I would like to extend my thanks and gratitude to His Excellency Bishop Mar Shlemon Warduni who served you with dedication for 14 months and prepared the atmosphere for the new bishop.  May God bless him.
I conclude my epistle by assuring you that your memories of joy and hope have been forever carved in our hearts – – mine and that of the Auxiliary Bishop Mar Basilio Yeldo – – thus you will always be in our prayers.
Yours sincerely,
 
+ Louis Raphael  Sako

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Faith in God brings comfort to Iraqi Refugee family in Australia

By The Record
Natashya Fernandez

It wasn’t a fairy tale story for Yaqoob Jebrita and his family when they escaped from the clutches of ISIS terrorists, but he is grateful for their new life in Australia and the immense help he has received from his Mirrabooka Parish.
One year since their arrival to Australia and on the lookout for a job, in an interview with The Record, Mr Jebrita says he lost his business, his father and their livelihood but what he didn’t lose was his faith in God.
A photographer and videographer by trade, Mr Jebrita had a fulfilling life in his hometown of Baghdeda (Al Hamdaniya). But all that changed when on 13 July 2014, Mosul, the town closest to his village fell into the hands of ISIS, he said.
“My town had over 95 per cent Christians and when ISIS declared war, we were very scared as our village was just 20 kilometres away from Mosul. We were reassured by the army to continue to live our lives but that wasn’t for long. My village was bombed on 25 July and my home was destroyed,” he said.
Leaving their home, his business and all their belongings, Mr Jebrita and his family fled together with his parents and his brother’s family to Erbil, a Kurdish town some 60kms from their village where they settled in the Church of St Joseph and lived there for three days, dependant on food and shelter from the church.
“During that time, things settled down in our village and the Catholic Bishop told us to go back to our homes. When we returned we realised that we had no water, electricity or food. It was my home for almost 40 years and we did not have anything left,” Mr Jebrita added.
While the family tried to return to their normal lives, Mr Jebrita said that it was short lived, and on 6 August, their village was bombed for the second time.
“ISIS returned and this time it was tragic. We saw children and women being killed and some died in our arms on the way to the hospital.
“We heard may bombs during that time and had no choice but to flee again for safety of our lives. We went back to the Church of St Joseph where our families lived for a month. We had nothing and could not go back to our village after that, Mr Jebrita explained.
Mr Jebrita registered with Caritas to move to Jordan to feel safer but it wasn’t a happy ending for his whole family. While his family and his brothers’ family were given visas to move to Jordan, Mr Jebrita’s parents weren’t allowed and had to stay back in Iraq.
“It was a very sad day for us when we left but we had to leave because of our families. We moved to Jordan in September 2014 and lived there for over a year and a half in a small room that was given to refugees by the church.
It was here that I met Father Kalil Jaar who not only helped my family through all the hardships but also the other families seeking refuge too,” he said.
Tragedy struck again in November 2015 when Mr Jebrita got news that his father had been killed by the terrorists in another attack in Erbil. So leaving their families in Jordan, the two brothers went back to Iraq for his mother.
It wasn’t till late 2015 that Australia opened its doors to Mr Jebrita and his family, and in April 2016, they were given refugee status to move there.
“It was the best thing that happened to us as we were constantly living in fear. I am happy to be here and it is my God who helped us,” he said.
“My kids go to school and we have set ourselves up, I am in the process of finishing a Certificated 2 in Business to get a job.
“None of this would have happened if I had not received help from Fr Giosue Marini at St Gerard Majella church in Mirrabooka and from Fr Elias Kilzi at Our Lady of the Annunciation Melkite Catholic Church in Mount Lawley who have helped our families (my brother and I) a lot.
“They have gone out of their way to help us.”
In spite of all the hardships and language barriers, Mr Jebrita said that the opportunity to have a safe place for his family is the best thing that has happened to them.
“It was difficult initially being in a new country but I am picking up on my English and when my course in complete I want to get a job as soon as possible.
“I want to give back to Australia what they have done for me and my family. Because of my business and always having work, I hope that this course will help me in finding a job,” Mr Jebrita concluded.

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Baghdad-born priest kidnapped and tortured by Islamic extremists says Australia is ‘the promise land’ for Iraqi Christian refugees


An Iraqi-born priest who was kidnapped and tortured by Islamic extremists for nine days says Australia is seen as “the promise land” for thousands of Christians still suffering from genocide in the Middle East.
Bagdhad-born Fr Douglas Bazi of the Chaldean Catholic Church told The Catholic Leader that Australia was leading the way in welcoming thousands of Christians forced to exile their homes because of Islamic State.
“I appreciate people from Australia for one, their prayers, two, opening their hearts before their arms, and three, opening the gates to our people, our people who have suffered from this violence,” Fr Bazi said.
“My people look to Australia as the promise land.
“My message to the people of Australia is my people are going to forget those who put us under a genocide, but we are never going to forget the people who stand for us, especially those of you in Australia.”
The message from Fr Bazi, who will visit Brisbane next month to speak about his kidnapping in 2006, comes more than a year after he pleaded with the Australian Catholic Bishops to prioritise taking in Middle Eastern Christian refugees.
In late 2015, while Fr Bazi was living in Erbil, Iraq, he received a visit from seven Australian Catholic Bishops including Melkite Eparch Robbert Rabbat and Chaldean Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona.
As his parishioners talked of the suffering and hardship faced by Iraqi Christians, Fr Bazi offered an emotional plea to the visiting episcopate.
“I told the Australian Bishops that I’m proud that I am an Iraqi, and I would never think one day that I’m going to leave my country,” Fr Bazi said.
“I always think like a soldier, to give all my blood until the very last drop, but now I have to think of my kids as a mother.
“I said to the Bishops, ‘I beg you to open your gates to my people’.”
Fr Bazi said he was grateful that the Australian Bishops had welcomed hundreds of Iraqi refugees fleeing their homeland into parishes around the country, including communities who arrived in Brisbane.
But he warned that this was no time to stop praying.
“We have to keep praying and make the government to accept more cases,” he said.
“There are thousands still suffering.”
Prayer is more than just a token action for Fr Bazi, who said he only survived a kidnapping and eventual release from a group of fundamentalist Muslims by the power of prayer.
Born and ordained a priest in Baghdad, Fr Bazi said his kidnapping, which made headlines around the world, was linked with violent attacks on Iraqi Christians following the US army’s invasion into Iraq in 2003.
The extremists bombed Fr Bazi’s church and twice he survived gunfire attacks on his parish community.
One of those times, he watched at the front gate of his church as the Shiia Militia opened fire on the sacred building.
He looked down to see “a fountain of blood up from my leg”.
Two months later, Fr Bazi was driving down the highway having visited friends following his Sunday Mass when a group of armed men with covered faces stopped his car.
He was removed from the drivers’ seat and thrown into the boot of his car and taken to an unknown location.
On the first night one of the kidnappers broke his nose and he was locked in an “ugly, smelly” chamber with his hands tied by chains.
“I used the chains to pray the Rosary,” Fr Bazi said.
“There was a big lock in the middle which I used for the Our Father, and then chains left from that which I used to say the Rosary.
“Before when I have to pray the Rosary, I always look to the finish.
“I don’t remember when I finished the Rosary in that chamber, probably hundreds.
“It was not because I was afraid, more it would make me relaxed, it would strengthen me.”
He did this for nine days, and said if his torturer’s goal was to destroy him, as a Catholic priest “it would take decades”.
Fr Bazi went without water for four days and was repeatedly questioned about being involved in suspicious espionage activity.
He said his abductors tortured him everyday but over time he became like a spiritual father, listening to their problems.
“They asked me for forgiveness,” Fr Bazi said.
“I told them ‘I’m a free man, and if I’m not going to forgive them, I will be like you’.
“As a Christian, we have to forgive.
“They could not understand me.”
An attempt to locate Fr Bazi riled the captors, and the following night the Chaldean priest had a hammer ploughed into his face, back and knees smashing his teeth, breaking two discs in his spine and breaking his patella.
Nine days after his capture, his archdiocese paid a sum of money for his safe return and he was released.
He left his cell, walked to the nearby church and was greeted by a priest who hugged him and said: ‘You are brave, my son’.
“I started to cry a lot,” Fr Bazi said.
Eleven years since his capture, the Chaldean priest still has nightmares “from time to time”.
He sleeps with a bottle of water next to his bed so when he wakes he knows he is still alive.
For years he couldn’t smile because of the injuries to his face and has only recently had the courage to take a selfie.
One of his first was taken last July as he stood in Mosul, the city of ISIS, with the flag of his new home, New Zealand, where he is leading a Chaldean community of 300 families.
His prayers are now directed at changing policies in New Zealand to allow Iraqi refugee children to live in his new home and he is using Australia as a blueprint.
The latest campaign is called Project 52, and aims to sponsor 71 disabled children living in Iraq to come to New Zealand.
“I try my best to knock on doors to make the government of New Zealand open its doors,” Fr Bazi said.
“I had many meetings in our Archdiocese and I’m always using the Catholic Church of Australia as an example of how we are able to do that,” Fr Bazi said.
Fr Bazi will make his first speaking appearance at Brisbane’s annual Spirit in the City conference on October 7 and will also be speaking to Australian media during his visit.
Spirit in the City will also include talks by Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Oratory priest Fr Adrian Sharp, South Brisbane parish priest Capuchin Father Lam Vu, and young Catholic Ora Duffley who volunteered with a Christian organisation supporting Iraqi refugees, among others.
Founded by staff and clergy associated with the Queensland University of Technology in 2014, Spirit in the City is a popular Christian conference tackling questions of faith, culture and public affairs.
This year the conference has been consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima and the Feast of the Rosary.

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Cristiani divisi sul referendum per l'indipendenza curda. Il Patriarcato caldeo: c'è il rischio di conflitto armato

By Fides

Mentre si avvicina la data del 25 settembre, giorno previsto per il referendum indetto dal governo della Regione autonoma del Kurdistan iracheno per sancire la propria indipendenza da Baghdad, dalle comunità cristiane locali arrivano segnali discordanti rispetto a quella consultazione referendaria, che attira l'attenzione e anche la preoccupazione degli osservatori e delle cancellerie internazionali. Nei giorni scorsi, una riunione di 1500 persone svoltasi a Ankawa, il sobborgo di Erbil abitato in larga maggioranza da cristiani, è stato presentato dai media locali come un segnale dell'appoggio offerto offerto dai cristiani locali al referendum indipendentista curdo. Alla riunione, svoltasi nella sala della Babylon Foundation, hanno preso parte rappresentanti di sigle politiche e organizzazioni sociali, e gli interventi degli oratori hanno esaltato il contributo che i cristiani potranno portare alla costruzione del nuovo Kurdistan indipendente.
Un'analoga manifestazione pro-referendum è stata organizzata nel villaggio cristiano di Tesqopa, a circa 30 chilometri da Mosul, con l'intento di esprimere l'appoggio all'indipendenza del Kurdistan da parte delle locali comunità cristiane e delle minoranze degli Yazidi e degli Shaback. In realtà, resta da verificare se queste manifestazioni rappresentino davvero il sentimento più diffuso tra i cristiani di quella regione, o se siano piuttosto il frutto di iniziative di piccoli gruppi coordinati con la macchina propagandistica messa in piedi dal governo della Regione autonoma del Kurdistan a favore del referendum indipendentista. La città di Tesqopa, teatro della recente manifestazione pro-referendum, è saldamente nelle mani delle milizie curde Peshmerga, che fanno capo al governo regionale di Erbil. Fonti legate all'Unione patriottica del Kurdistan hanno riferito che un contingente di 12mila soldati curdi Peshmerga è presente nella regione della Piana di Ninive, ufficialmente per mantenere l'ordine e prevenire iniziative unilaterali da parte delle molte milizie presenti nella zona, comprese quelle sedicenti “cristiane” come le Brigate Babilonia, che nel recente passato si erano espresse contro il referendum indipendentista.
Proprio la concentrazione di milizie Peshmerga in aree adiacenti a Mosul è uno dei fattori che concorrono ad accreditare le voci di chi teme una possibile degenerazione delle tensioni tra governo regionale del Kurdistan e governo iracheno. Anche i vertici politici di Baghdad hanno lanciato chiari segnali che non accetteranno la creazione di uno Stato curdo nel nord dell'Iraq attraverso un referendum proclamato in maniera unilaterale dal governo regionale. Martedì scorso, 12 settembre, il parlamento di Baghdad ha votato per dichiarare ufficialmente nullo e illegittimo il referendum del 25 settembre. Anche Turchia e Iran hanno fatto sapere che la consultazione referendaria si terrà davvero, gli effetti potrebbero esser gravi e destabilizzanti per tutta l'area.
In questo contesto, il Patriarca caldeo Louis Raphael Sako ha espresso le sue preoccupazioni in un comunicato che ha il valore di un appello al governo centrale iracheno e al governo regionale del Kurdistan affinché riprendano il dialogo con coraggio. La scena politica irachena, dopo la caduta del regime di Saddam – fa notare l'appello patriarcale, pervenuto all'Agenzia Fides - è stata dominata dal tatticismo, dalla difesa di interessi di parte e dalla gara a acquisire o difendere posizioni di forza. In questo progressivo degrado del tessuto politico nazionale va inquadrata anche la vicenda del referendum indipendentista del prossimo 25 settembre. A tal riguardo, il rischio di un'escalation della tensione viene denunciato anche dalla Chiesa caldea: “alcuni” fa notare l'appello del Patriarca Sako “hanno già preso a suonare i tamburi di guerra: se ci fosse - Dio non voglia – un nuovo conflitto militare, in queste condizioni sociali e economiche frammentate le conseguenze sarebbero disastrose per tutti, e le minoranze sarebbero come sempre quelle destinate a rimetterci di più”. Dopo le sofferenze subite durante l'occupazione jihadista di Mosul e delle aree nord-irachene, “tutti dovrebbero essere coscienti della gravità della situazione e affrettarsi a sostenere la riconciliazione nazionale e la pace, prima che sia troppo tardi”. In situazioni come questa – fa notare il comunicato patriarcale - si riconosce il profilo del saggio che fa prevalere la voce della moderazione, sapendo che “la guerra non è mai uno strumento per la cura dei problemi”. Riguardo al futuro delle comunità cristiane autoctono e alle loro variegate prese di posizione rispetto al referendum, il Patriarca caldeo fa notare che “Noi cristiani non siamo in grado di far valere i nostri diritti né con gli apparati centrali né con quelli regionali, anche perché fazioni politiche e milizie che si dicono cristiane in realtà sono lontane dalle preoccupazioni delle comunità cristiane locali, E se si dovesse aprire un ulteriore confronto armato nella regione, questo comporterebbe certo una ulteriore riduzione della presenza cristiana in quelle zone”.

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