ICC Note: The reality facing Christians in Iraq and Syria has leaders fearing that their flocks will soon vanish completely. Now more than ever before they cannot fault them for choosing to leave. It is not simply the promise of a better job or an education that is causing people to leave, it is the very real threat of kidnapping or execution in the hands of militant jihadists. The global church is attempting to provide aid to these communities that not only allows them to survive, but to rebuild a future in their own lands.
08/17/2015 Iraq (Aleteia) Sister Diana Momeka encounters stories like this on a daily basis. A mother came to her the other day, desperate for answers. She couldn’t get her four-year-old son to eat. He couldn’t sleep at night. His bones ached constantly. And the medicine he was taking was no help.
In ways, the boy is a metaphor for the larger Christian community in Iraq—100,000-plus souls still wondering what will happen to them, more than a year after an Islamist movement forced them from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. Once industrious, hard-working, proud homeowners, the sons and daughters of a millennia-old Christian tradition scrape by, living in trailer-like facilities or unfinished buildings in the Kurdish capital of northern Iraq. The temporary housing, set up in sprawling camps around Erbil, let in no sunlight and can be roasting in the summer and frigid in winter. The internally displaced persons have very little privacy and often get little sleep.
With a spike in childhood illnesses last year, Sister Diana was inspired to seek the aid of a local priest, and both of them recruited doctors and nurses. They eventually established clinics that could make at least a dent in a growing public health problem.
Meanwhile, almost 400 miles to the west, the Greek Melkite Archbishop of Aleppo, Syria, returned from a visit to the United States to find a flock still shaking in fear. Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart’s once proud city lay largely in ruins, and clashes between the Islamic State group, the al-Nusra Front, other rebel groups and the military of Bashar al-Assad’s regime hover perilously close. In fact, the archbishop said in an interview Friday, the Christian neighborhood had suffered a bombing just two days before his return, leaving seven people dead.
Four years after the outbreak of civil war, with no real hope of a solution, a plan Archbishop Jeanbart proposes seems almost ludicrous. He calls it “Build to Stay,” and he expects that it will provide enough motivation to keep distraught Syrian Christians from emigrating. It is, he says, a “movement that has the goal to gather together a great number of faithful who are convinced of the importance of our presence in this country.”