DEPLORABLE CONDITIONS: Up to 50 Iraqi Christian refugees sleeping in areas the size of bedroom
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
8/25/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Mattresses scattered around church altars. Up to 50 people sleeping in areas the size of a single bedroom. Church grounds dotted with makeshift tents in 105-degree heat. This was just a few of the deplorable conditions a delegation sent by Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham found among the Christian refugees in Irbil, Iraq.
Mosul, one of the largest cities in Iraq, is now completely empty of Christians as is Qaraqosh, a town dating back to 1,000 years before Christ and inhabited by mostly Christians for 2,000 years.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The head of the delegation, Father Rami Wakim met with scores of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq is hosting an unprecedented number of persecuted Christians and other minorities expelled from their homes by the Islamic State fighters.
The delegation visited the displaced at three different churches. "The people are angry because the government just gave up on them," Father Wakim said. "They told us that, in Mosul, where there had normally been a presence of 60,000 soldiers, after the onslaught of ISIS, in only a matter of hours, these soldiers abandoned them, laying down their weapons."
Church grounds in Irbil are dotted with makeshift tents in 105-degree heat.
Mosul, one of the largest cities in Iraq, is now completely empty of Christians as is Qaraqosh, a town dating back to 1,000 years before Christ and inhabited by mostly Christians for 2,000 years. More than 100,000 refugees had been displaced from Mosul alone.
"They all fled at the same time without taking anything" with them, Father Wakim told reporters.
Displaced Iraqis have put their trust in church leaders and are leaning heavily on their own faith.
Swarms of people have crowded around the patriarchs, kissing the crosses and medals adorning their vestments, asking the prelates for blessings and to pray over the sick.
"It was very touching. The (Melkite) patriarch cried many times when he saw these people. He was hugging and kissing them as he cried. Of course, I cried, too. I think all the patriarchs cried because they felt helpless, there was nothing they could do at that very moment," even though they came laden with funds from church collections and donors, Wakim said.
One of the chief goals of the visit was for the patriarchs to plead together for help - and not just because most of those affected are Christians but because they are human beings and they are being eradicated.
Seeing the situation in Irbil "made me realize that the mission of a priest is very difficult, and very heavy at this time," particularly in the Middle East, Father Wakim said.
"People look up to priests and bishops as the only solution, the only help they can get at a time where - of course we need to pray with them - but at this time prayer alone doesn't seem enough and actions are required."
Father Wakim said the prelates have promised to do everything possible for the displaced Iraqis and to speak for them internationally, wherever they visit, in their name and for their cause.
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