- May 15, 2021
Having witnessed or even experienced persecution for their faith, the Christians of Iraq must be careful not to harbor thoughts of revenge, Pope Francis told them.
Before Pope Francis left for his historic trip to Iraq, several observers objected to the risks he was taking, given the security situation and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, one American working in the country said, “it’s never an optimal time to come here.”
Turkish airstrikes and ground troops are threatening areas in northern Iraq populated by Christians, Yazidis and Kurds trying to recover following 2014 attacks by Islamic State militants.
Catholic aid agencies helping the displaced in northern Iraq say they are reaching those in need as the COVID-19 situation slowly improves there.
A top Catholic humanitarian group expressed concern for the tens of thousands of Iraqis displaced inside their country and dependent on assistance, because access to them has become severely restricted due to COVID-19.
No one knows right now what the future holds for the embattled Christians of the Nineveh Plains.
The Ninevah Plains, traditionally home to a large Christian community, is now “ground zero for the disputed territories between the Kurdish regional government and Baghdad.” Five Catholic and Orthodox bishops issued a joint statement appealing to the international community to protect the Christians of the area.
Speaking to Catholic bishops and clergy from Iraq, Pope Francis encouraged them not to give in to discouragement facing the challenges of helping Christians return after the devastation of ISIS occupation, and also delivered a strong plug for Iraqi national unity after a Sept. 25 independence referendum in which 93 percent of Kurds voted to split with Baghdad.