04/03/2017, 16.05
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Church helping thousands of Muslim refugees, united against Daesh, says Mar Sako

This morning, the Chaldean primate visited two refugee camps on the outskirts of the city. The Hammam al-Halil camp hosts 25,000 people. The patriarchate delegation delivered aid and money. "We are not infidels, ‘Kuffar’,” said the Primate of the Chaldean. The goal is to save the “Iraqi mosaic".

Erbil (AsiaNews) – Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako today visited two refugee camps on the outskirts of Mosul, for Muslims only, handing out aid and money raised by the Iraqi Church in recent weeks.

"We told them that we want to remain united, we want to help them, that we are not infidels . . . 'Kuffar'. We must insist on this word; they must understand that we are not infidels” he said to AsiaNews. "They told us that the Islamic State (IS) is the real 'kuffar', unbelievers who have sullied the name of Islam."

The Chaldean primate travelled this morning to Hammam al-Halil, a refugee camp located about 15 minutes outside of Mosul, a city in northern city that has been an IS stronghold. The camp houses 25,000 Muslim refugees. On behalf of Iraqi Catholics, the Patriarch delivered aid for about 3,000 people.

The Church delegation then visited a second refugee camp, 20 minutes away from Mosul, which is home to at least 11,000 people, all Muslims. Here too he handed out aid to a thousand families, as well as money for medicines and other basic necessities.

"The two camps are located not far from Mosul,” the prelate noted. “We wanted to go to the city’s outskirts to see the situation for ourselves. However, we couldn’t because of shelling and heavy fighting" between the Iraqi army and Jihadi militias entrenched in the western sector.

In February, after months of intense fighting, the government successfully drove Daesh from east Mosul, on the right bank of the Tigris River.

The army offensive began on 17 October and took nearly five months to overcome Jihadi resistance in the area. Now the goal is to take complete control of the city, notwithstanding the need to protect civilians from the effects of the offensive.

Some of Iraq’s oldest churches and some of the most important monasteries are in Old Mosul, in the western sector. There buildings date from the fifth, sixth, and seventh century and are part of the country’s religious, cultural and historical heritage.

The military offensive underway in the west has killed at least 4,000 people and destroyed 10,000 houses in what many activists and local religious call "a real tragedy."

The new refugees will join those already displaced, about 3.5 million people, and the number is expected to rise considering that there are still 400,000 people in west Mosul.

Speaking about the situation in Hammam al-Halil Mar Sako said it was “terrible. People are devastated; men and women are suffering, desperate."

"We came to tell them that we are close to them, to show them our solidarity,” the patriarch added. “We believe in the same God. These refugees told us to come back to Mosul, that without Christians it is not the same city."

As he left the camp, the Chaldean leader saw "four more buses" with dozens of families that had fled the violence consuming Mosul.

Finally, "We must rebuild confidence to save Iraq’s religious, ethnic and cultural mosaic,” Mar Sako said. “Actions like these help rebuild confidence and lift up people who feel low and humiliated." (DS)

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