04/11/2019, 18.53
IRAQ
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Easter prayers and solidarity for Mosul and Nineveh refugees in Kurdistan

A bazaar will be organised for holy week to collect food, drugs and clothes for the neediest families. For Fr Samir, many families are still experiencing difficulties at a time when aid has fallen off. Grateful to AsiaNews and PIME for their financial support, he voices local concerns about the winds of war blowing in the Middle East and a possible attack against Iran. Prayers for peace are needed.

Enishke (AsiaNews) – Refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain are preparing to celebrate their fifth Easter in Iraqi Kurdistan, away from home, said Fr Samir Youssef, pastor in the Diocese of Amadiya talking about the seasonal atmosphere.

In recent years, the clergyman has helped thousands of Christians, Muslims and Yazidis who fled the Islamic State group in the summer of 2014. For them, now it is a time to get ready for the Way of the Cross, to pray as well as hold study sessions to discuss fasting "which is not only abstinence from meat" but also "rejecting evil". A church bazaar is planned to show solidarity to the poor, with donated food, clothing and drugs at reduced price.

"We are doing well,” Fr Samir said, “although in this last period it has rained a lot and there have been floods even in Iraqi Kurdistan". The same weather has affected neighbouring Iran, causing major damages.

"The dams are full and when they release the water, they swell the rivers, which overflow. The cities – Mosul, Erbil, Dohuk – got the worst.”

“For Christian refugees in our area, who live in containers, the inconveniences have been limited; different story for those living in tents, like the camps in the [Nineveh] Plain or towards Mosul, who had to face serious problems.”

The weather should improve for Holy Week though, which would allow the clergyman to organise a three-day bazaar in front of his church, Mart Shmony, in Enishke.

"With the money from our benefactors, including AsiaNews and PIME, we bought food and drugs. In next days, we will sell them at half price to poorer families, who cannot go to the city or do not have enough money."

“This year, foreign donations have dropped and most of the money is going Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, for reconstruction. The thousands of families who still live in Iraqi Kurdistan at present, 22 in Enishke alone, are left with the crumbs. For this reason, the support from the Adopt a Christian of Mosul campaign is that more significant.”

"On behalf of my parish and myself I would like to thank the director of AsiaNews and, through you, the PIME Foundation for the 10,000 euros you sent, for your support and for all you have done for us."

"With this money we have been able to provide kerosene to a hundred families, and US$ 100 in cash to 25 families,” Fr Samir said. “With your support we can help families in difficulty, be they local Christian families or the families of (Yazidi, Christian and Muslim) refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh plain still living among us and unable to return to their destroyed and unsafe homes.”

Given the fact that some families “chose stay here with us, this has created a pressing problem in education because of a lack of schools."

In addition to the charitable initiatives, Easter preparations include moments of prayer, catechism, the Way of the Cross, fasting "which is not only abstaining from food, but also being hungry and thirsty for the word of God, living it and practising it".

Before Palm Sunday Mass, there will be a procession, "if time permits, starting outside the church, with the children leading the way with palms and olive branches, together with the cross, singing psalms and chanting Hosanna".

"For those who fled the Islamic State, this is the fifth Easter away from home. And lest we forget, we must remember those who escaped from Baghdad in 2006 during the first wave of anti-Christian violence,” said Fr Samir.

The extremist mindset that favoured the rise of the Islamic State, is "still present" and the situation "is not really safe,” he said. “Only yesterday there were two explosions in Mosul".

For the clergyman, political instability in the Middle Eastern is another issue. Talks about "ever-stronger winds of war blowing against Iran (from the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia) are a source of fear”. Hence, "praying for peace at this time of celebration is even more important".

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