ICC Note: With more than 100,000 Christians displaced, the needs are massive to sustain the church in Iraq. “They can see no light at the end of the tunnel,” Father Halemba said. This feeling of hopelessness is driving many to consider leaving their homelands and never to return.
10/29/2014 Iraq (AINA) – Father Andrzej Halemba heads the Middle East Section of international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. Earlier this month, he visited the displaced Christians of Iraq: “It is the most tragic thing that I have ever experienced,” he said.
Do the Christians in Erbil there still have hope?
It is a very difficult situation. Without question, we are talking about genocide here. Genocide is not only when the people are killed, but also when the soul of a people is destroyed. And that is what is happening in Iraq now. It is the most tragic thing that I have ever experienced. I have seen people who have been deeply wounded in their soul. In the various crises in this world I have often seen people who have lost everything. But in Iraq there are Christians who have had to leave everything and take flight three or four times. They can see no light at the end of the tunnel.
They are all very traumatized. Normally in such situations it is the women who pull everything together. But in Kurdistan I have seen women who are staring into nothingness and have closed in on themselves. Their tears have run dry. It is something that I have never seen anywhere else. The men, by contrast, tend to aggressiveness. This has to do with the fact that they are no longer able to fulfil their previous role as the breadwinner and protector of their family. Now they have to beg for everything and they have no perspective.
Do you have the impression that the Christians wish to leave Iraq?
When one has lost all hope, one wishes to leave one’s homeland. The majority do not wish to return to their homes. This is a bad sign for the future of Christianity in Iraq. The Christians feel that in Iraq they have been betrayed and abandoned, and they want to get out. The Kurdish fighters who were supposed to defend the Christian areas against ISIS assured the Christians that they were safe. Then suddenly ISIS overran the Christian towns and villages. Often they could not even take a change of clothes with them.
That is a bitter feeling, to have nobody on whom one can depend. It reminds many Christians of the massacres in the Ottoman era, 100 years ago, when hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Christians were slaughtered.