CHURCH BLEEDING ON EUPHRATE
FR. ŁUKASZ JAKSIK
It is the eighth time when on the second Sunday in November in the Church in Poland, the Day of Solidarity with the Persecuted Church has been celebrated. This initiative is supported by the Polish Episcopate and the Holy Father encouraged everyone to support the action Help to the Church in Need, while he was speaking to Poles during the Angelus Prayer several years ago
Similarly as it took place in 2010, the eighth Day of Solidarity with the Persecuted Church will be devoted to the situation of the Christians in Iraq. Since the collapse of Saddam Husajn’s regime, the situation in Iraq has still been dramatic, as the result of the intervention of coalition armies in 2003, and the government is not able to guarantee its citizens’ safety. This country became a symbol of war with the Christians. Members of ethnic and religious minorities are exposed to violence from the fundamentalists. Assassinations take place particularly during Muslims’ religious days and area caused mainly by the Sunnites and Shiites fighting for power with each other.
What is a particular target are the Christians whose number has decreased from 14 million to less than 275 thousand during the last 10 years. They are experiencing constant attempts of islamization. A lot of Muslim organizations demand paying Islamic tax by them to people of other religions, the so-called dżizji and they are also trying to impose rigid rules on Christian women concerning the style of clothes. A lot of Muslim priests of high rank demand strict separation of women from men at universities.
As the Catholic archbishop of Mosul the Syrian religion, Basile Georges Casmoussa said – 80 percent of young people are going to leave the country or are dreaming about doing it. The auxiliary bishop Shlemon Warduni from the Catholic Chaldean patriarchate in Bagdad said: Emigration destroys our culture, our history, our faith and life of our communities members. This is a dangerous infectious illness which we are not able to prevent. Nobody can predict what will happen with the land in the near future which is considered as the home of Christianity or with its native inhabitants in Iraq but we can help them survive and maintain hope for the better tomorrow, with our prayer and material support.
Appeals for unity
The supreme authority of Christian churches in Iraq is the Chaldenian – Catholic patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako. He is still appealing to the Christians and the Muslims in the country for national unity and face up the so-called Islamic State together. In his opinion Iraq will have a chance for a better future only when religion will finally be separated from the state and freedom of religion will be maintained. Regardless of terrorism caused by Islamic extremists, the Christians are exposed to various kinds of discrimination.
Recently, the patriarch Soko has reminded that, for example, a judge in Bagdad had not allowed a Christian to take on a role of a witness in a court process only because of his religion. It happens that Muslim construction entrepreneurs do not accept any orders from the Christians. There are also cases of depriving Christ’s believers of their rights for their possessions and homes. It often happens that Christian girls are forced to wear scarves ‘to the example of Mary the Virgin’. Recently the patriarch Sako has intensively been trying to change the Act, according to which a child born by non-Muslim parents becomes Muslim automatically when one of the parents gets converted into Islam. A big wave of refugees in the Near East causes a situation when more and more people are gathering in camps often run by dioceses, parishes or other church institutions.
One of such places is a camp in Iraq Erbil. Its manager is Fr. Douglas al-Bazi. At present in this camp there are a few dozen thousand people. In most cases these are elderly people or mothers with children. The aim of the organized help is to provide institutions with the most necessary things of everyday use: food, cleanness means.
There was no room
Camps for refugees are supplied with means gained, among the others, by the organization Help to Church in Need. Its founder was Fr. Werenfried van Straaten. In 1943 he joined a Flemish monastery in Premon (the Norbertines) in Tongerlo. At night 7 December 1947 he wrote an article for a special occasion entitled: ‘There is no room in the inn’, in which he called conquered nations to give help to the defeated Germans and to reconcile with the former enemy. It was the moment how the organization ‘Kirche in Not – Ostpriesterhilfe’. Fr. Werenfried began from collecting bacon, therefore he was called Speckpater Father the Bacon. In 1952 he began to organize help for countries behind the iron curtain. After his meeting with cardinal Stefan Wyszyński in 1957, the monk initiated help for the Church in Poland. He always remembered about the persecuted for faith, about the homeless and the suffering. His organization ‘Kirche in Not’ – Help to Church in Need’ is the work of love of XX century. Help brought to Church in the world has always been accompanied by support and blessing from popes, especially St. John Paul II with whom Fr. Werenfried was in friendship.