“They gave us the choice to be Christians or be killed” and “we had to flee from our lands with our Christ, with our faith and with our principles. We chose to go far from our homes and from our country that we love, preferring to become foreigners in a strange land, with all the pain and suffering that follows, rather than become part of that evil and that inhuman violence against innocent people”.
This is a passage from a moving letter sent to the Pope from several Iraqi Christian families who have been taking shelter for several months in Jordan’s Naour parish. Fr Rifat Bader, Naour’s parish priest and director of the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Amman, delivered the letter personally to Francis after Mass at Santa Marta on Thursday, 5 March. Fr Rifat also gave the Pontiff a copy of a painting by one of these refugees: “I cannot reveal his name”, the priest said, “because he fears for his life, but the painting encompasses the whole tragedy experienced by Mosul’s Christian community”. The piece depicts a carovan with the city walls at its back. (On the left can also be seen a statue of a lamassu, one of the symbols of Assyrian civilization that were destroyed by terrorists). In front is the Holy Family (“they too were refugees”) and a guardian angel who accompanies the journey of a whole people: priests, sisters, men, women, elderly, children, some wearing clothing typical of the cities of Mosul and Qaraqosh. “In these months”, said Fr Rifat, “I have received from these people, persecuted precisely for being Christians, a great testimony: they no longer have anything, their sole treasure is faith”. They wrote to the Pope: “Our faith today is stronger than before. We are not afraid of anything because we are certain that God is with us”. (marizio fontana)
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 18, 2019
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