12/14/2009, 00.00
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Christmas in Kirkuk, Christians messengers of peace and hope

by Louis Sako*
Ecumenical meetings, catechism for youth, charity for sick, disabled, abandoned and the poor, Christians and Muslims, and the baptism of a young Mandaean doctor. These are the various faces of Kirkuk where Christians await the birth of the Saviour and become messengers of joy even in midst of Iraq’s tears.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - What is Iraq expecting of Christmas? What does it expect from this time of Advent? We posed this question to some of our friends and Msgr. Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk has sent us the answers that we publish below. Kirkuk, inhabited by Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, has fought for its immense oil reserves. Throughout the year there have been kidnappings, killings and violence against Christians in the city. According to the same archbishop, Christians are subject to violence because "they want to have a role in rebuilding the nation."  

This year all activities in our diocese focus on the message of Christmas: peace on earth and hope to men.

In these weeks of Advent, the Catholic priests and those of other Christian churches have gathered together for a day of reflection, in preparation for Christmas.

Young people and associations, for their part, have deepened the basics of the faith with catechism. All the faithful have made time for prayer vigils, visits to the sick, those who are isolated or disabled.

In the difficult economic situation, the youth of the Emmaus communities have collected gifts and money to help poor families, without distinguishing between Christians and Muslims.

A young Mandaean (gnostic) doctor received baptism.

Christians must be aware of their mission: the faithful have the duty to be messengers of the Good News of peace and hope in Iraq and Kirkuk.  For the message to be received and heard, we must love it and strive to live it in a concrete manner. Our example affects more than words. People see this and are moved.

Although there are difficulties in the country and a lack of security, Christians must have the courage to pass on this message without fear and anxiety, instead with great freedom and enthusiasm. The heart is full of confidence in the One who calls us, sends us and accompanies us because he is Emmanuel; God-with-us.

We are messengers of joy even when there are tears and suffering and sacrifices, as in this our land of Iraq.

So this message can increasingly become an integral part of our lives, we must live together with others in the Church. The true messenger remains faithful to the Tradition of the Church and with it bears witness.

The Church is the place where the faithful share their spiritual experiences and support one another in giving testimony.

* Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk

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