While issues of everyday concern to families are on the agenda at the extraordinary Synod on the Family, one participant has come to Rome with a very sinister tale to tell. It’s the plight of tens of thousands of Iraqi Christian families who fled for their lives to escape from Islamic State militants. Few think they will ever return home. That’s according to Archbishop Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East of the Syriac Catholic Church who was eager to speak to Vatican Radio outside the Synod hall. He wanted to raise global awareness about the desperate conditions in which his people are now living in northern Iraq.
“The situation is disastrous for our communities in northern Iraq,” says Patriarch Younan. “Our people in northern Iraq, especially the Syriac Catholic people,” he says, “have been really hit by the …fanaticism, jihadism of the so-called Islamic State.” Islamic State militants have swept through large swathes of Iraqi territory, threatening Christians and other minorities to convert to their extreme brand of Islam, pay a special tax or die.
Patriarch Younan explains that Syriac Catholics were the largest Christian community caught up in the jihadi violence: “over 70,000 Syriac Catholics have been uprooted. And that means over two-thirds, if not three quarters of our numbers in all Iraq – they have been displaced and they have nowhere to go. And that means (now) we only have the Church in Baghdad. And this is also experiencing a lot of pressures.” He explains that even though it “does not have the means,” the Baghdad Church is taking in many Christian families who are trying desperately to get out of the country.
“It’s a disastrous situation for families and children, and also for our parishes” he says with dismay. “We don’t know what to do with our people, especially the young… leaving them in that kind of limbo – no hope for the future.”
By: Vatican Radio