THE VICTIM IS THE WHOLE SOCIETY
Nearly every day we receive worrying information from Iraq about the situation of the Christians persecuted in this country by the Islamists. On the recent days, archbishop of Bagdad, Jean Benjamin Sleiman OCD has arrived in Poland. He came to our country to the invitation of the organization Help to the Church in Need.
FR. MAREK ŁUCZAK: – What does the everyday life of the Iraq Christians look like now?
ARCHBISHOP JEAN B. SLEIMAN OCD: – The situation of the Iraq Christians is not the same as in the case of all believers of this religion. Certainly, we can say about some common features, but generally, we must say that here we deal with some differences. Surely, everybody must be confronted with the sense of fear and danger, but some of them have a much worse situation: they had to leave their homes and share the fate of the refugees. Those who stayed at their homes, must often struggle with the disapproving attitude of the Muslim neighbours. They are also forced to pay tax because of the fact that they are not believers of Islam.
– Is the number of people forced to leave their homes increasing or has it got stabilized?
– The biggest wave of refugees seems to be behind us. Various sources give various statistic data but much over 100 thousand people are among the others at schools or live under the open sky..
– Is there a chance to organize the international humanitarian help for refugees?
– Such help is, certainly possible. Now in Iraq there are interventions of some organizations in order to bring relief to suffering of persecuted Christians but it is not definitely enough. Unfortunately, it must be admitted that the Iraq country has not passed the exam in the present situation: Christian citizens cannot hope for protection or support from those structures assigned for it.
– Two years ago the editorial office of ‘Niedziela’ was visited by archbishop Louis Raphael I Sako who deplored on the withdrawal of American armies from Iraq. The hierarch was afraid about the future of his country…
– Undoubtedly, the role of the American is complex, so it is difficult to have an explicit opinion about their actions in various contexts. It is also necessary to appreciate the love of the USA to democracy and efforts aiming at promoting this system in the world. However, the invasion of the Americans to Iraq would probably contribute today to increasing the division of the society of Iraq, would increase the conflict and would significantly increase the number of victims.
– So, what can we say about the contemporary society of Iraq? On the one hand there are ideological Islamists, on the one hand – followers of Islam, who do not characterize with such radicalism. Is this difference seen in everyday life?
– Here we deal with a very complex situation. However, we can say that the whole Iraq society is the victim of the present situation. What should be emphasized is the fact that promotion of Islam country is induced by international factors. So, we deal with the outer danger, and we are also exposed to inner dangers resulting from complicated political conditions.
– How does Archbishop evaluate the attitude of Europe and western countries in the present situation?
– I could boldly ask why you allow for our suffering? Unfortunately, the voice of Europe is nearly not hearable. Here we can say about inertia of European structures which on the political or diplomatic way could do much more for us. On this occasion I will also mention the unappreciated role of journalists. It is thanks to them that the world can learn more about our situation and it gives a chance to make public opinion sensitive to it and gives hope for changes. On this occasion I would also like to thank the Church in Poland for the initiative of prayer. Poles, worshipping Our Lady of Częstochowa, prayed for Christian martyrs with particular consideration of my compatriots. I am grateful for this initiative.
– We hear more and more often the voice of pope Francis about the situation in Iraq. Is this voice hearable also in your country?
– Not only do we hear the voice of pope Francis, but we also wait for it. Pope addresses words to us in order to strengthen our faith. He assures us about his prayer which he addresses to God in his heart in the intention of all Iraqis. There are also significant words referring directly to aggressors who, in the opinion of pope Francis, should stop their actions. Surely, it is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the papal appeals but surely people responsible for the current situation in Iraq hear these words and there is always a chance that it will brings good fruits in decisions. Moreover, the words of the Holy Father are valuable for ordinary people for whom they are consolation and give hope.