By Blanca Ruiz
Erbil, Iraq, Jan 9, 2015 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Emil Nona is the Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul, the Iraqi city overrun by the Islamic State last summer. Since then, he has brought the voice of the Christians of Iraq to the West."For us the faith is everything. It is our life, our identity, our history and our way of life. We can’t separate ourselves from our faith in any way," Archbishop Nona told CNA. "Our faith, which has been in this land for more than 2,000 years, cannot come to an end so easily."
He speaks with the clarity of someone who knows that without international help soon, more of the region will become territory of the Islamic State. Christians will have to abandon Iraq for good in order to save their lives and escape persecution and they will leave behind a land where Catholics have been present for more than 2,000 years.
The Chaldean Archbishop of Mosul said, “Most Christians plan to leave Iraq because they thought the crisis would be short-lived and after we would return to our homes, but this has not been the case. There have been no positive signs in the last six months that our land will be liberated. The Islamic State is becoming increasingly stronger."
No plans for liberation
Although shortages are widespread in Iraq, thanks to Aid to the Church in Need shelter is being provided for more than 120,000 displaced Christians in northern Iraq. There temperatures in the winter drop to single digits, and so large tents have been set up so families can come together and stay warm. Space is limited but the people are grateful not to be exposed to the elements.
In addition, help from Aid to the Church in Need made it possible for thousands of refugee children to receive a Christmas present, and plans are underway to set up schools so that children can continue studying until the situation becomes normal again.
The shortages are widespread, but what this group of Christians lacks most isn’t material things, but hope, as there are no signs things will improve.
"They have lost faith in their land, where they have lived for thousands of years. They have lost faith in Muslim society because they helped loot our homes. Now they live in waiting, not knowing what is going to happen. The only thing they haven’t lost is their Christian faith. We are proud because none of the 120,000 people in this area has converted to Islam," the archbishop explained.
Faced with the choice of converting to Islam or death, the Christians of Mosul have preferred to die rather than deny the faith.
In this desperate situation, Christians there do not complain or cry out to God for justice. "When something like this happens, we in the East thank God for everything. Because we know well that man is the cause of this problem, not God. In this situation, the existence of God is more necessary than ever, the presence of God is more powerful," Archbishop Nona said.
"When there is such brutal violence on the part of man, the presence of God is even stronger, because He is good. We believe even more, because it is more necessary than ever to believe amidst a situation as extreme as this one.”
The question of where is God in this persecution is a question "only you in the West pose. In the East we never ask that question. For us faith is enmeshed with our identity and the faith cannot be separated from our identity."
These martyrs of the faith only ask that the rest of the world not forget about them, about their suffering, about the injustice they have endured each day for more than six months. For this reason, whenever they receive help it means much more than just a solution to the lack of shelter or food.
"This aid is not only material but also shows that other Christians have not forgotten about us and experience the needs of Christians in Iraq as their own. We cannot ask them to stay in their land suffering if we do not help," Archbishop Nona said.
"We can’t know what will happen but up to now we have not seen any positive signs that our land and peoples will be liberated. Islamic militants are in the city of Mosul, on the Nineveh plain, in much of Iraq, but the Iraqi army does nothing to liberate these lands. We do not know the exact reason why we are not liberated and why there are only air raids. Up to now we haven’t seen any region liberated, much less any plans for liberation," Archbishop Nona said.
Radicalization in Iraq since 2003 read more via
"And I started thinking about the refugees who make the dangerous trip from Africa to Italy, and for whom Pope Francis has great compassion and concern. Malta is part of the migrant route.
And then I started thinking about how Malta has said it feels overwhelmed by immigrants. Just yesterday, there were reports that as many as 500 people had perished off the coast of Malta.
And then I thought: Burke is only 66 years old — he has a lot of energy left in him, and is very organized — and by all accounts he is a stickler of an obedientiary.
It would not at all surprise me to discover that Pope Francis, seeking to find a way to give assistance to people risking their lives to escape a troubled continent, has deliberately put along their route a youngish churchman with a humanitarian “military order” under his patronage, and a gift for putting things together.
In fact, this seems like exactly the thing Francis would do: align an obedient, faithful Cardinal who enjoys a bit of ceremony from time to time with a well-organized Knighthood able to offer medical and emergency help, and who also rather like getting spiffed up from time to time, and put them to work, together, for the good of the countless numbers of people, and ultimately for the good of the church.
I suppose if one buys into the worldly take on what constitutes a prestigious office, one might say “yes, this is a demotion! From the Curia, the seats of Power, and making episcopal recommendations to the little island of Malta**, and the Knights?”
But the whole world is in the midst of great crisis, and the church — this great centering pole which keeps everything from collapsing and lets in the light — must respond, wherever she can, and do it quickly and authoritatively, because nations are failing, as they do, and people are suffering, and darkness is encroaching, all about.
I think Francis has given Cardinal Burke a great challenge, a great privilege, and a mighty task: to sustain and further build up an organization that serves people-in-need around the world, regardless of race, creed, nationality; to shore up good-and-welfare networks that have become stagnant; to assist immigrants and nations as the world continues its transition into something different from what it has been. And to — why not, if he wants? — wrap all of these efforts in occasional pageants of great beauty and solemn worship, because beauty feeds the heart and soul, and it doesn’t belong to only some, but to all."