Five poets read their poems, collected in a book titled ‘Before the eyes there is a bridge’. Proceeds go to the ‘Adopt a Christian from Mosul’ campaign. Fr Samir Youssef, who helps 3,500 refugee families, talks about the loneliness and hopes of Christians and Yazidis who fled the persecution of the Islamic State group.
Rome (AsiaNews) – Five poets met in AsiaNews’ offices in Rome to offer a personal response to the world’s indifference to the fate of Mosul refugees. They read verses to bear witness to the birth of a new bridge between their life and that of refugees and persecuted people.
The five poets are Tommaso Di Dio, Lorenzo Babini, Davide Ferrari, Massimiliano Mandorlo, and Mariadonata Villa. With the help of Swiss painter Mauro Valsangiacomo, they put together a collection of their verses in a book, Davanti agli occhi c’è un ponte (Before the eyes there is a bridge, Lugano, Edizioni Alla Chiara Fonte) whose proceeds will go to AsiaNews’ campaign ‘Adopt a Christian from Mosul’.
For the occasion, Fr Samir Youssef, pastor of the diocese of Amadiyah (Kurdistan), which is helping 3,500 displaced Christian and Yazidi families, sent a letter, which we present below.
In his message, Fr Samir, talks about the daily lives and loneliness of the refugees as well as some small signs of rebirth and hope, like children going back to school, new births, the release of some hostages, and new businesses starting up.
At the end, our readers can view video clips from the evening.
DIOCESE OF ZAKU AND AMADIYAH
Dear Father Bernardo Cervellera,
Dear readers and friends of AsiaNews,
I would first like to thank the Lord for your friendship, which makes us feel united with you, close to you, despite the distance.
In difficult situations as the one in which we are forced to live at this time in Iraq, the hardest feeling to endure is loneliness, "being alone" and feeling forgotten. During the first weeks after ISIS seized the Nineveh Plain and Sinjar, and chased away Christians and Yazidis from their historic land, loneliness and feelings of abandonment were the most unbearable feelings in all our lives.
Seeing those poor people camped along the streets, in parks, around the churches, and sharing their state of extreme discomfort was a source of great suffering. My heart wept when I listened to the stories of men and women killed, kidnapped, raped, dying from starvation and thirst.
In such instances, I realised what ‘desert’ meant. It is the place where faith is really put to the test. I felt and understood the cry of Auschwitz, where people were dying of starvation without the world knowing anything about what was happening.
The silence that prevailed at that time in my heart was often torn by a cry addressed to God: Why, Lord have you remained silent, why do you keep silent? Today, for us, this is still the biggest fear, that the world may ignore our tragedy, the tragedy of refugees that after a year and eight months continues to be a matter of survival, in which the most basic human rights are continuously violated and forgotten.
In this Lenten season, we are living our faith trying to give the refugees some hope by being close to them. In last year’s Lent, in 2015, many people were wondering and asking us: Why has the Lord left us? Why has he abandoned us? How could he tolerate all this destruction and pain? Today, by the grace of God, we feel the joy of hope in the lives of these people, despite all the difficulties.
I would like to tell you some of the experiences I lived through in the past year and a half.
Firstly, there is that of a Yazidi man. Before he fled Mount Sinjar to escape ISIS violence, he buried his father and mother on the mountain, where he also left his flock (more than 120 sheep). When I met him after he came to us, in Enishke, he was full of despair. Today, with the help we provided, he has rebuilt his flock with 50 sheep and, just recently, God has favoured him with the birth of a grandchild, a sign that life goes on. Solidarity is our response to evil of all kinds, including that of ISIS.
Another man, a Christian, who had lost his job and house, today runs a mini-market where he works with his wife.
Today, we are able to provide transportation to school for 850 students after over a year of interruption of their studies. This was made possible by your help. With the help of other Churches, we have also been able to buy and hand out clothing, kerosene for heating, fabrics and other consumer products, to fight the rigour of this particularly cold winter, which has brought a lot of snow.
I would also like to tell you about Fauzia, a young Yazidi woman who was left alone after she lost her entire family – parents, brothers and sisters – killed or abducted by ISIS. A few weeks ago, one of her sisters was freed, and at present, they went back to school.
Christian and Yazidi children have become friends, and play football together. For last Christmas, they had the idea of helping handing out gifts to their refugee friends.
These and many other stories are signs of hope for all of us.
Faced with these suffering people, we should not ask ourselves who is to blame, if or how to forgive. Our commitment of faith should prompt us to pray and work for the victims’ salvation, and for the quest and affirmation of justice for those who suffered through no fault of their own.
God gave us Jesus to restore hope to these people. We must recognise the "signs of the times" in the light of faith and hope.
As Pope Francis put it, faced with all these attempts to destroy the world, God gave us Jesus, came close to us to give us his comfort and mercy. We must respond to the gift of his love with our love and our commitment towards our neighbours. This is a commitment to which we are called in order to offer to those we meet the concrete sign of God’s closeness.
Where there is more thirst for hope, where people are abandoned and suffering, in all this we have a duty to bring God's mercy through a lifetime commitment to be witness to our faith in Christ.
Through the works of mercy, we continue to bring the Father’s love to those who suffer. Such small acts of love, tenderness, and care show that the Lord is close to them.
This is what the Chaldean Church does, but also what the sister Churches of Italy and Europe, and many organisations and friends do. They make us feel their moral closeness and their material solidarity. This is what AsiaNews is doing with its fund-raising campaign ‘Adopt a Christian from Mosul’.
To all of you I express my personal gratitude and that of our brothers and sisters who are living as refugees and who must not lose hope for a better life. Above all, they must not lose faith in God and the Resurrection in Christ his Son.
Fr Samir Youssef
The video of the poetry evening follows: