More than 2,000 faithful, many of them refugees, attended the solemn Eucharistic celebration. Mgr Warda speaks of a "feast for the whole community", made possible thanks to the work of dozens of young volunteers. The diocese provided free bus transportation from shelters. The situation has improved but aid is still need.
Erbil (AsiaNews) – The day of the Assumption on Monday in Ankawa, a Christian neighbourhood in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, was a "big celebration", a "feast day" attended by "over 2,000 faithful, many of whom" fled Mosul and the Nineveh plain in the summer of 2014 with the rise of the Islamic State (IS), said Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Mgr Bashar Warda
"It was a celebration for the entire community,” the prelate told AsiaNews, “made possible by dozens of young people who worked from morning till night to set up the structure."
The archdiocese provided " free buses for refugees, to bring them from the various reception centres to the site of the celebrations," Mgr Warda said. For them, it was "the first great celebration at the community level in two years."
For the archdiocese itself, it was a "moment of great celebration" because "the past year, we were unable to organise a big celebration since we were still in full humanitarian emergency." This year, however, the situation "has improved somewhat, although difficulties remain."
Overnight on 6 and 7 August 2014, hundreds of thousands of people fled predominantly Christian villages in the Nineveh plain, from Qaraqosh to Karameles, finding refuge in Erbil and other areas of Kurdistan.
Mgr Warda was at once on the forefront in providing support and help. For displaced Christian families, AsiaNews launched the campaign ‘Adopt a Christian from Mosul‘, which continues after the immediate emergency in order to meet long-term needs.
In his homily, the prelate mentioned "Mary's response to God", her "yes with which she gave herself to him, through service and dedication." Likewise, "Elizabeth’s response of faith” should be an example "for all refugees" because for them too "there is this a call to service".
As the diocese of Erbil, which in recent days celebrated the consecration of three new priests, "we are blessed to have the refugees among us" because they are a living testimony to "the need of the mercy that we can exercise through service" to others.
"Now the situation is better than in the past,” Mgr Warda said in concluding, “because we managed to close two centres and place families in houses. Now the goal is also close to the Mar Elian centre. However, aid is increasingly important because it is thanks to foreign donations that we can pay the rent of the houses."