09/26/2014, 00.00
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Baghdad patriarch calls on Iraqi Christians to remain faithful to the Gospel in their land

In a letter to the faithful, Mar Sako reminded them that they belong to the land of Iraq. It "is not just dust," but is part of their "identity, language and customs," not to mention their "traditions, history, [and] memory." At a time of suffering and persecution, he urges believers to remain faithful to Christ in accordance with the work of the Holy Spirit.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - Like their fathers, Iraqi Christians today are called to "remain faithful" to Christ and to their land, because it "is not just dust," but is a part of their "identity, language and customs," not to mention their "traditions, history, memory, and authenticity. Land is sacred," said Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael I Sako in a letter addressed to the Christian community of Iraq by the.

In the text sent to AsiaNews, His Beatitude quotes extensively from the Gospels, in particular, from John, who stressed that the Risen Christ "lives" and works through the Church in the world, guiding "our steps." The patriarch's message is one of hope for the persecuted minority, victim of abuse, violence and persecution by the militias of the Islamic State.

On Wednesday night, terrorists destroyed one more symbol of the millennial Christian presence in the Arab country, blowing up Tikrit's Green Church. After placing explosives inside the building, jihadists detonated the charges. They did the same today to a mosque.

Against a logic of death and devastation, "faith is a journey into the light", Mar Sako said, one that can "point the way" and bring joy even in the darkest moments because "peace is the future" and the prospect of resurrection exists for everyone, as Saint Paul said.

"Faith, no matter how lowly we are, helps us to be free from ourselves and from our past, from our fear and [narrow] judgments," the Chaldean Patriarch said. It "brings us back to God's logic", which looks at and promises the future."

"Faith is like love," his Beatitude said. "It is a deep loyalty to deep things that goes beyond problems and difficulties." It grows and changes, "centred on giving" and not "on holding ". It is like a lamp "that burns and turns into a light and joy that brighten our night."

In his letter, Patriarch Sako does not shy away from what "threatens to undermine" the Christian presence in Iraq or the fears that exists for the future of the local Church. Against the backdrop of mass exodus, he points out that those who are sticking it out remain "firm and strong in our vocation."

For the prelate, the mission of the Christian community - whose 2,000-year presence in the country has been a source of wealth, culture and pluralism - is "to bring the Gospel of joy and hope to all our brothers".

Not mincing his words, he chastises those lay people and priests who say that "there is no future for us in Iraq," and calls on everyone to follow the Holy Spirit who "helps to hear God's word" and "to put it into practice" in every aspect of daily life.

Only through faith, he notes, "can one see the work of the Holy Spirit and that of Christ who redeems our lives." As Saint John repeatedly put it, the life of believers "is not easy" and "there are always new challenges that we must face with courage and confidence."

Finally, "We need the Holy Spirit to boost our own spirits and find some consolation," Mar Sako said, "for we are lowly against the violence and injustice of this world."

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