Friday, January 11, 2013

Mosul archbishop on anti-Christian violence and the miracle of Christmas

"Tensions are running high" in Mosul, "a situation that involves all the residents, not only Christians," said Mgr Emil Shimoun Nona, the city's Chaldean archbishop. 

"People are fed up," he told AsiaNews, "because of ten days of continuous demonstrations" and the lack "of minimum services like water and power". Political leaders and officials focus instead on "their own self-interest."

"Faith and hope" are still important, the prelate noted. This was true during the recent Christmas celebrations. "For the first time since 2003, we were able to end Midnight Mass past 11 PM before hundreds of worshippers. Everyone was happy for that."

In recent days however, Mosul has seen several acts of violence, with Christians particularly affected. 

On Monday, a Christian woman was killed, her throat cut, during a robbery. 

Yesterday, a car bomb killed a Christian medical student on his final year of university.

These events are directly connected with the country's tense situation. 

A sectarian power struggle is pitting Sunnis, Shias, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen against each other. Minorities without their own powerbase or established political protection are paying a price for this.

In Mosul, important members of the Christian community have already lost their life, like Mosul bishop Mgr Faraj Rahho, who was killed after he was abducted, and Fr Ragheed Ganni.

"For the past days, we have had demonstrations in various parts of the city," Mgr Nona said. Police have "cracked down, hard a times." Sunni groups are leading the protests, but they stress their affiliation to the city, not their confessional identity.

Such tensions "are nothing positive, especially for Christians," the prelate explained. They usually come "before elections", he noted. "In April, we have local elections," and the Christian minority "might get caught in the crossfire. This is what happened in previous years. Although we are hoping for the best, from what we see something bad could happen."

Keeping hope alive in such a place is hard. For Christians "life must go on despite evil," Mgr Nona said, "but people are fed up."

This has been going on for the past ten years in Mosul: corrupt political parties, a powerless central government and parties "trying to cut deals for their own benefit." Residents "are tired; they have had enough. Basic services like electricity, water, petrol and roads are still inadequate."

"If they had thought about the common good, about guaranteeing minimal services, all this would not have happened," he explained. "People are ready to explode. We must change everything, starting from our way of thinking."

Reasons to hope still exist and the prelate shared them with us, stories about small miracles to boost the faith and invite us to persevere.

"Christmas celebrations in Mosul" are one such story, the archbishop told AsiaNews. "They were lovely with lots of people, a great success," he said. 

"I celebrated Midnight Mass in St Paul Parish Church with another priest before a congregation of almost 600 worshippers. A beautiful festive mood hovered over the place, boosting our sense of confidence and trust."

For the first time since 2003, the year of the US invasion that led to the downfall of Saddam Hussein, "we were able to celebrate the evening Mass well past 11 pm. That had not been done in the past. It was a beautiful celebration," the prelate said.

Since 2003, because of the lack of security, all Masses are celebrated in the afternoon, including Midnight Mass.

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