Erbil (AsiaNews) - In a dark moment in the history of Iraq and the Christian minority, it is necessary to keep hope alive because for people "who lost everything" what matters is that "we are still united" and this is a "positive sign". Indeed, this tragic situation has boosted and strengthened our ties, and "made us feel closer" and solidarity as a Christian community and as the Chaldean Church, said Mgr Shimoun Emil Nona, Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, in northern Iraq, where about 500,000 people - Muslims and Christians - fled in early June ahead of an Islamist Muslim army that founded a caliphate and imposed sharia.
Mass exodus has led to a humanitarian, economic and political crisis that spread across much of the country, particularly in the north and around the Nineveh Plain.
In May, well before the military successes of the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sha, ISIS), a Sunni jihadist group linked to al Qaeda, the prelate had warned about the "tragedy" that hung over Iraq and its people.
However, he noted that "hope must guide our actions", an appeal he addressed to Chaldean bishops and Card Fernando Filoni, special envoy of Pope Francis in Iraq.
The "renewed unity" among the faithful and within the Chaldean Church, long marked by internal divisions, is the best answer to those who want to erase all traces of 2,000 years of Christian tradition from the country.
For weeks, Mgr Nona has spent most of his time taking care of displaced families, who have had to abandon their homes with only the clothes on their back and are now living in "really difficult" conditions.
"We try to bring them some comfort," the prelate told AsiaNews, "and contribute to the work of assistance and help. Yesterday I visited a few families in Dohuk and Zakho, in villages that were once almost empty and are now teeming with refugees and displaced people."
International organisations such as UNICEF and UN High Commissioner for Refugees have begun to hand out basic necessities, like food and water. Even the Pope, through his envoy, has donated money for the families. This is a drop in the bucket. "Whilst it is important, it is not enough to meet the needs of all" and "does not represent a long-term solution."
"Most of the people are sleeping in gardens and parks," the prelate said, "and the risk of outbreaks is high. It is unthinkable that they continue to remain without work, education for their children, or homes."
Still, the archbishop thanked those who promoted initiatives in solidarity with Iraq and the Christian community, like our agency, which launched the project "Adopt a Christian from Mosul", responding by concrete means and with life to emergency events in Iraq.
"The fundraiser sponsored by AsiaNews is important," the archbishop said. "I take this opportunity to thank Christians around the world for the closeness and solidarity they are showing. We need material help, but also closeness and solidarity at this critical moment in our history." Our goal, he added, was and remains to "stay here in our land and regain our human dignity."
Meanwhile in Baghdad, there was a breakthrough that could put an end to weeks of political and institutional deadlock. Outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to step aside, accepting the demands of Iraqi religious leaders and the international community, including the United States and Iran. This will leave the field to Haider al-Abadi to form a new government of national unity. Maliki will withdraw his appeal to the Federal Court and "support" the prime minister-designate.
Meanwhile, the United States, France and other Western nations plan to supply weapons and military aid to the army of Iraqi Kurdistan, which is involved in countering the Islamist offensive in the north.
Nevertheless, for the archbishop of Mosul, "a military solution is not enough. We must find a political way out based on reconciliation, the common good, and human rights."
In his view, the appointment of a new prime minister is "a positive signal for Iraq because he has support and achieved consensus. The agreement is both a positive signal and an attempt to rebuild national unity." (DS)