08/12/2005, 00.00
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Two young Iraqi men stranded in Jordan on their way to Cologne

The two left Mosul on Sunday but are waiting in Jordan for a German visa. Their arrival for the WYD remains uncertain; papers might be ready only after August 16.

Mosul (AsiaNews) – For some young people in Mosul, the dream to get to the World Youth Day (WYD) has many hurdles. Red tape, delays in visa applications and their country's political and social instability have prevented the Mosul Diocese from getting the right documents in time for those who wanted to go to Cologne. But two of them might still make it; the question is whether they will do so in time.

AsiaNews has learnt the story of Fadi Lobbo and Yazin Ghazala from Fr Ragheed Ganni of the Holy Spirit Parish Church in Mosul.

"Usually young Christians around the world start to prepare a year before but our community has had a really bad year, beginning in April of last year till February of this year," the 33-year-old Chaldean priest said.

Fr Ragheed, who is also secretary to Mgr Rahho, the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, said that "during this period the whole country ha been politically unstable and Christians have been repeatedly targeted by the terrorists (St Paul's Church was hit in August last year, and in December it was the turn of the Chaldean Bishop's Residence). Only in February, after the elections, did we start to breathe again".

The last time eight young people from Mosul went to a WYD was in 1997, in Paris. Father Ragheed said that the Pontifical Council for the Laity agreed to fund the trip of some young people, "but the lack of security in Mosul and the difficulty in registering and getting passports in time prevented the whole thing from happening".

All this did not however stop Fadi and Yazin, who set off for Cologne at their own expense.

"The two were able to register via a Mosul priest who is studying in Rome," Father Ragheed said.

Their intention was to reach Germany in time for the meetings organised by the German dioceses ahead of the 20th WYD (August 16-21), but since Germany has no embassy in Baghdad, they had to go to Jordan. There, they have been waiting for five days, and unfortunately, last Tuesday, they were told that their visa would not be ready before the 16th.

"In our parish, we are praying that their efforts are successful and that they can realise their dreams," the Chaldean priest said.

Fadi Lobbo, one of the two men stranded in Jordan, is a 27-year-old pharmacist; in St Paul's Parish, he volunteers as mentor to a 45-member youth group.

"My dream is to meet other people from around the world and exchange notes about our respective pastoral experiences," he said.

Yazin Ghazala, 29, is physician; he, too, is involved with young people from the same parish, a group made up of 25 people ranging in age from 19 to 22.

"It has been so long that I've wanted to see the Pope and take part in a mass that he celebrates . . . I want to do it at least once in my life," he said.

Khalid Al Pekandi, a 34-year-old merchant who directs the parish's choir and is in charge of its music, was supposed to join them, but his passport was not issued on time. Undaunted, "whatever happens, I'll still dream about going to the next WYD," he said.

In spite of all the difficulties and obstacles, Mosul's Christian community "will be spiritually one" with the youth gathering in Cologne, and will follow the event on TV.

On the 19th, Holy Spirit Church will host a meeting of reflection on this year's WYD theme—"We have come to Worship Him—which will be followed by a mass.


In the photo: Mosul, St Paul's Parish Church, young people involved in repairing the building after the August 2004 attack.

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