06/23/2016, 11.59
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Iraqi refugees: Daesh, exile and the desire to meet with Pope Francis

Two Christian refugees welcomed by the Jordanian Church in Amman.  From a peaceful childhood, under an authoritarian but stable regime, to violent conflict and jihadist drifts. Relations with Muslims and the power of faith. With other refugees they have made a chasuble for the Pope whom they hope to meet in Krakow.

Amman (AsiaNews) - The memory of a childhood "peaceful and without any major problems", spent in the family with the ordinary difficulties of every day, turned upside down by the fall of a regime that could maintain "stability", even if by using force. The violence of war, chaos and, most recently, the rise of Daesh [Arabic acronym for the Islamic State] have disrupted their lives by forcing them to flee their own land. And seek refuge abroad, waiting to see what direction the future will take. This is the testimony entrusted to AsiaNews by two 20 year old Iraqis, who fled one from Kirkuk, the second from Mosul, two years ago following the advance of the jihadi militias.  The girls are now living in Amman, Jordan, along with other refugees, thanks to hospitality projects fielded by the Church and by the local Caritas. They both confess that it is their heart's "deepest desire" to be able to meet Pope Francis one day so they can ask him to "never stop praying for us, Iraqi Christians".

Hadeel Akko is a young woman, native of Iraqi Kirkuk, who left Iraq after living years of violence and terror that progressivley escalated with the advance of the Islamic State in the summer of 2014. Maryam Zaitona was born and raised in Mosul, in the Nineveh Plains, in what is now the jihadist stronghold in Iraq.

In recent days Hadeel and Maryam, together with 16 other Iraqi refugees (pictured) entrusted to the care of Don Mario Corniole, a fidei donum priest on mission from Italy, a chasuble they made sewn with scraps of small materials in the tailoring workshop started in the Jordanian capital . A gift "made by Iraqi girls" for Pope Francis, which he will hopefully wear in a forthcoming celebrations; their desire is to see him "live" in Krakow, in late July.

Before the dream of rebuilding their lives, having abandoned everything, these girls shared dream is just to meet the Pope, hug him, ask him to continue to pray for their country. Perhaps even in Krakow for the World Youth Day, even if the visa problems make this possibility difficult. AsiaNews wanted to meet them to hear their story, of suffering, but also their hopes and wishes for the future.

"My life was stable in Kirkuk, in a small house" surrounded by love "my father George, my mother Najwa, my brothers David and Aydin" Hadeel said. We lived "in peace", she adds, sharing the local Church and Sacred Heart Cathedral. "I was part of the church choir, I never wanted to abandon it [...] and I went to school to learn, and one day put my learning at the service of Iraq." "I remember a beautiful, full life - adds Maryam, more demure in words but not in the feelings that she holds for her country - and all the people who lived in peace and harmony, no problems".

Hadeel says she misses her "studies, the church and the choir. But most of all the love and peace "that we once breathed in an Iraq that was once “tolerant "and that now "no longer exists".  For Maryam the greatest suffering is to "not being able to attend my parish" and she also misses  "the time spent with my former friends and my family." In the past "relations between Christians and Muslims were very good", but "everything has changed" with the extremist drift that culminated in the arrival of Daesh. Now Christians generally “no longer trust their Muslim neighbors as they once did”.

"Before 2003 - echos Hadeel - relations between Christians and Muslims were stable thanks to the presence of a strong, authoritarian government, who exercised the rule of law without distinction". With the American invasion and the fall of Saddam "the state and the law" collapsed creating "a situation of chaos; the militias have taken control of the streets "and the Christian community began to suffer violence and attacks, which involved" private homes and places of worship ".

However, despite the difficulties and sufferings the faith remained and is a "very important element of everyday life." Christ faced the cross for us, says Hadeel, he has forgiven our sins, and this is a sign of the greatness of his love. "No trouble, no trouble can undermine this faith, because this faith in Jesus is able to do miracles." A thought shared by Maryam, who in Jesus has found the strength "to face all of life’s circumstances". "Right now my life is neither good nor bad - continues the young woman from Mosul – but one central point remains: the Church which is always a great support for us and it has always stayed by our side”. The support provided by the Church and its representatives is "crucial" for Hadeel because it "makes us part of the Christian life [...] and it is always a source of new opportunities, such as sewing course" that she took part in, in  Amman recent weeks.

Both have contributed to the realization of the chasuble for Pope Francis, whom they hope to be able to meet in the near future. "I love him very much," confesses the young woman Kirkuk and "I would ask him to bless me and to teach me how to live in humility and love as he does. And I would ask him not to forget us [Iraqi refugees], to pray for us, we who are his sons and daughters. " "I - intervenes Maryam - I would like to tell him that we all love him and I would ask him to pray for us, which we so badly need."

The two girls' last thoughts are for Iraq, their land of origin, which, perhaps, they have left for good. "I think it would be very difficult for us to go back to our homeland - concludes Hadeel - because there is nothing for us. I'm afraid to go back; despite everything I want to look with hope to the future, to complete my studies and build me one day. " "I am sad - says the young woman from Mosul - because I miss my land. I hope that, one day, people can live together again without problems, loving each other reciprocally because love is the  ath of peace”. (DS)

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See also
Priest in Amman: My life among Mosul’s refugees
16/06/2016 13:20
Iraqi Islamic Reconciliation Summit in Amman
Amman, Pope Francis’ "Garden of Mercy" offers work to Iraqi refugees
14/05/2016 18:14
Christians in the Middle East "as in a cage", amid slight signs of openness
Niniveh: reconstruction increases Christian unity and communion, says nuncio to Iraq
17/05/2017 18:17


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