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Iraqi Assyrian Girl Freed From Islamic State Says ‘Mum, Dad’ Again

Iraqi Assyrian Christina Ezzo Abada, a former hostage of Islamic State militants for three years, sits next to her sister inside a cramped home at a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq June 10, 2017. ( Reuters/Erik De Castro)

(AINA) Reuters– A six-year old Iraqi Christian girl, kidnapped by Islamic State when she was three, was reunited with her family on Friday, and getting used to saying “mum” and “dad” once more.

“The best day of my life is the day when Christina came back,” said her mother, Aida Nuh, on Saturday.

Dark circles around her eyes are evidence of sleepless nights since August 2014, when the militants snatched Christina from her, a few weeks after overrunning the town of Qaraqosh, 15 km (10 miles) southeast of Mosul.

“She stayed three years with the terrorists. Of course she forgot who her mother is, who her father is, that we are her family, but she will learn again.”

Islamic State has kidnapped thousands of men, women and children from Iraq’s minorities, mainly Yazidis.

Christians who did not or could not escape in time were faced with an ultimatum – pay a tax for protection, convert to Islam, or die by the sword. Some, like Christina, were kidnapped.

Christian families who remained in Qaraqosh were forcibly displaced on Aug. 22, 2014. The militants took away Christina from the minibus which had driven them to the edge of Islamic State territory, after threatening Aida, who desperately resisted.

The family’s efforts to track her though Arab friends were rewarded on Friday, when they got a call telling them Christina had been found in Hayy al-Tanak, a poor neighborhood of Mosul.

Eighth months into the U.S-backed offensive to take back Mosul, all of the city has fallen to Iraqi government forces except a pocket by the western bank of the Tigris river.

We went to a dirty place in Hayy el-Tanak (..), we took the child,” said Christina’s blind father, Khader Touma, wearing dark glasses and surrounded by the family now complete with the return of his youngest daughter.

Her two sisters and two brothers had escaped to Kurdish territory before the arrival of the militants.

“I’m with mum and dad,” said Christina, playing with a plastic toy, in a mobile home for displaced people in Ankawa, a Christian suburb of the Kurdish capital Erbil, east of Mosul.

The parents said they now hoped to emigrate, to put their ordeal behind them.

In the meantime, they face a long wait in the cramped cabin, because their home in Qaraqosh was almost completely destroyed in the fighting to dislodge the militants.

Syndicated News
By Hamuda Hassan and Isabel Coles

Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Andrew Bolton.

Half of Syria and Iraq’s Christians have left since 2011, says report

(World Watch Monitor) Three years to the day since the Islamic State group took control of the Iraqi city of Mosul, a new report estimates that 50-80% of the Christian populations of Iraq and Syria have emigrated since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

The arrival of IS was only the “tipping point” of a trend already gathering pace as Christians experienced an “overall loss of hope for a safe and secure future”, according to the report, produced by Christian charities Open Doors, Served and Middle East Concern.

The report also notes that for the Christians who have settled elsewhere, there is “little incentive” to return, with several interviewees saying “the Middle East is no longer a home for Christians”.

“There is little incentive to return, with several interviewees saying the Middle East is no longer a home for Christians.”

In a policy paper released alongside the report, the three charities call on the EU to help establish an “accountability mechanism” to deal with incidents of religious and ethnic persecution and discrimination in Iraq and Syria.

“Creating a national accountability mechanism for grievances is a long-term solution which aims to restore faith in a system that ensures all religious and ethnic communities are affirmed as equal citizens and deserving of protection, while also deterring negative actors from taking adverse actions against these communities,” the charities write.

They urge the EU to “advocate for the establishment of the mechanism through its contacts with the Iraqi and Syrian governments” and to provide funding, technical support and monitoring. The mechanism, the charities add, “should be transparent and inclusive, ensuring all key stakeholders at all levels (government, community leaders, civil society and the public) are represented adequately”.

Major findings

The report, ‘Understanding the recent movements of Christians leaving Syria and Iraq’, acknowledges the difficulty of producing definitive figures, as it estimates that the overall Christian population of Iraq has reduced from “well over 300,000” in 2014 to 200,000-250,000 today – “many” of whom are now displaced internally. In Syria, meanwhile, the charities estimate that the Christian population of around 2 million in 2011 has “roughly halved”.

“Factors for leaving included the violence of conflict, including the almost complete destruction of some historically Christian towns in the Nineveh plains of northern Iraq, the emigration of others and loss of community, the rate of inflation and loss of employment opportunities, and the lack of educational opportunities,” the report notes. “While direct violence, such as the movements of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, was the tipping point for displacement, the ultimate decision to leave the countries was portrayed as an accumulation of factors over time.”

A greater number of Christians are thought to have left Syria, but only because the initial population was higher, according to the report, which adds that a greater proportion of Iraq’s Christians have left the country.

The Christians have emigrated via a range of routes, including resettlement programmes through churches, formal refugee registration and “illegal routes” – though the deaths of Christians trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe have reportedly “dissuaded some”, while “the high price of these routes have made them unavailable for others”.

Lebanon has reportedly taken in the most Christians, while thousands more have resettled in Jordan and Turkey, and a smaller number in European countries such as Sweden and Germany. However, “recent policy changes, as well as living conditions, have made arrival or staying in many of these countries, such as Sweden, incredibly difficult”, the report concludes, adding: “There were reports of returns [home], but many expressed the sentiment that Christians have given up hope of returning.”

However, the charities note that “many” of those who remain “want to play their part in rebuilding the shattered societies of Iraq and Syria. They want to be seen as Iraqi or Syrian citizens, enjoying the full rights of citizenship, such as equality before the law and full protection of their right to freedom of religion or belief, including the ability for everyone to freely worship, practise, teach, choose and change their religion. They are not calling for special privileges as a religious minority.”

26 dead after gunmen open fire on buses carrying Coptic Christians

IRAQ – Bishops ask for international protection for Christians in the Nineveh Plain

Mosul (Agenzia Fides) – The widespread statement released on Friday 12 May by three Syriac Bishops (a Syirac-Catholic and two Syriac-Orthodox) in northern Iraq, asking for the creation of a protected area reserved for Christians in the Nineveh Plain to be placed under international protection, to take away Iraqi baptized from sectarian persecution and violence, is causing embarrassment.

The Nineveh Province, scattered by Christian-majority towns and villages, was conquered by the jihadists of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (Daesh) between spring and summer 2014. In those months, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled from their villages in front of the advancing jihadist militia, finding shelter in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The statement issued last Friday to regional and national authorities and to international organizations was signed by two Archbishops of Mosul – Syriac Catholic Boutros Moshe and Syriac Orthodox Mar Nicodemus Daud Matti Sharaf – and by Mar Timotheos Musa al Shamany, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Bartellah. The three Archbishops ask to transform the Nineveh Plain into an autonomous area under UN international protection to take it away from conflicts and safeguard the rights of Christian communities that have their traditional roots in those lands. The statement also claimed the right of administrative autonomy for Christian communities in the Nineveh Plain.

On Saturday, May 13, the Chaldean Patriarchate issued an official statement to underline that the statement released the previous day does not reflect the position of the Chaldean Church, and does not represent it. The Patriarchate’s statement refers to a recent statement by Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako. In that text, as reported by Agenzia Fides (see Fides 6/5/2017), the Primate of the Chaldean Church underlined that in this critical stage the priority for so many displaced Iraqi Christian is to try to return to their home towns. This implies the urgent need to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure, also taking advantage of international aid. But only after the return of stability in the Country, processes to require the creation of new autonomous administrative units can be initiated, such as instruments to protect the rights and continuity of minority ethnic-religious groups”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 15/5/2017)

Jordan: Hashemite King vows to protect Arab Christians

The Hascemite Monarchy says it will renew efforts to protect the existence and identity of Arab Christians.

King Abdullah II of Jordan reiterated during a meeting with Archbishop Justin Welby, Primate of the Anglican Communion, who was received in Amman on Tuesday, May 2. During the conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Monarch re-presented Jordan as a model of harmonious coexistence between Christians and Muslims. In the meeting – reports Jordanian media – King Abdullah also argued that recent unilateral regulations put into effect by Israel create hidden dangers for Christian and Muslim Holy places in Jerusalem, reiterating that the Hashemite Monarchy has the intention to reject any attempt to alter the “Arab identity of the Holy City area in which they are concentrated. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 3/5/2017)

Former Egyptian-Muslim converts to Christianity

This is the story of Amani Mustafa, a Egyptian women who left her country and moved to the US. In this video she explains the danger and abuse she was faced with in Egypt and about her conversion to Christianity.

ISIS claims attack near historic Monastery in Egypt

The AP reports the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for an attack on a check point near the historic Orthodox Christian St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt, killing one police officer and wounding four. ISIS has vowed more attacks against Egyptian Christians, who make up 10 percent of the country’s population.

One of the world’s oldest ‘working’ Christian monasteries, St. Catherine’s, officially “Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai”, was built between 548 and 565 in a remote desert area at the foot of Mount Sinai. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and a popular tourists destination. The site contains the world’s oldest continually operating library, possessing many unique books including the Syriac Sinaiticus and, until 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus.

Militants ascended onto an elevated hilltop overlooking the police checkpoint several hundred meters outside the monastery. Then they opened fire. Some of the gunmen were wounded when police returned fire, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said.

Please pray for our Christian family in Egypt.

Photo By Berthold Werner via Wikimedia Commons

 

A MESSAGE TO THOSE WHO KILL US – Fr. Boules George (Egypt)

Fr. Boules George, St. Mark, Cleopatra (Cairo, Egypt)

Video Transcript:

What will we say to them?

THANK YOU

The first thing we will say is “Thank you very, very much,” and you won’t believe us when we say it.

You know why we thank you? I’ll tell you. You won’t get it, but please believe us.

You gave us to die the same death as Christ–and this is the biggest honor we could have. Christ was crucified–and this is our faith. He died and was slaughtered–and this is our faith. You gave us, and you gave them to die.

We thank you because you shortened for us the journey. When someone is headed home to a particular city, he keeps looking at the time. “When will I get home? Are we there yet?” Can you imagine if in an instant he finds himself on a rocket ship straight to his destination? You shortened the journey! Thank you for shortening the journey.

We thank you because you gave to us to fulfill what Christ said to us: “Behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). We were lambs; our only weapons: our faith and the church we pray in. I carry no weapon in my hand. We are so grateful that you helped us fulfill this saying of Christ.

Thank you for helping us achieve our goal. You’re helping us, and you don’t even know it. I know you don’t understand, but I’m trying to explain it to you. There are people we visited at home to encourage them to come to church–three, four, five times. Still they won’t come. What you’re doing here–you’re bringing to church the people who never come. Believe me–it’s bringing to church the people who never come!

People who were living in sin and away from God, after the bombing of St. Peter’s Chapel in the Cathedral, they were saying, “You never know when your number’s up. Better take more care [in our spiritual lives].” All these vistations we do–you’re so much more effective. You’re filling up our churches! You’re filling our churches!

Let’s speak plainly here… Usually attendance at the Eve of Monday Pascha is very little. People are usually so tired after a long Palm Sunday Liturgy and the General Funeral, and they don’t come to the Eve of Monday services. When I came in tonight, there were people on chairs outside the sanctuary, there were people in the balcony seating. The church is completely full. There isn’t even one empty nook. Thank you. We are so grateful that you’re helping fill up our churches.

When you do this, you irritate the soul of the person who was lazy before. You wake his conscience and the love of God within him prods him to come to church.

Can you see why we thank you? We’re not being deceptive. A priest holding a microphone can’t lie to you! I say to you: THANK YOU. Thank you for all you have done for us without even noticing.

WE LOVE YOU

The second part of the message we want to send to you is that we love you. And this, unfortunately, you won’t understand at all. Maybe you won’t believe us when we say we’re grateful. But this–you won’t even understand. Why won’t you understand it? Because this too is a teaching of our Christ. I want to explain to you about our Christ. I want to tell you about how wonderful He is.

See what Christ said: If you love those who love you, you have no profit or reward with me. Even thugs and thieves love those who love them. Any gang loves its members. Even the drug dealers all like each other and take care of each other. Right? But I want to tell you that “if you love those who love you, what reward have you… But I say to you, love your enemies”(Matthew 5:46, 44).

We Christians don’t have enemies. We don’t have enemies; others make enmity with us. The Christian doesn’t make enemies because we are commanded to love everyone. And so, we love you because this is the teaching of our God–that I’m to love you–no matter what you do to me.

I love you very much. And I want to say one last thing to you: we’re praying for you. Because the One who told us to love you told us to “bless those who curse you… and PRAY for those who spitefully use you” (Matthew 5:44). So my instructions from my loving God make it my duty to pray for you.

In one of the dioceses, there is a bishop. In that diocese, there is a man who gets on the microphone every week to say terrible things about Christians–unheard of things. So the servants [of the diocese] are hearing this man and are so upset. We didn’t do anything to this man. He’s just taken a vow to curse us. Every Friday he comes out and curses the Christians.

So the bishop is sitting with his servants, and he asks them, “Are you upset by what this man says?” And they say, “Of course! We are so upset! What’s he doing to us!” The bishop gets quiet and his face darkens with sorrow. The servants say to him, “You have a right to be upset from what he says, Your Grace. You have a right.”

“I’m not upset with him,” the bishop says, “I’m upset with you! You are servants–you? How many of you pray for him every day? Because if he tasted of the love of God, if he knew who our Lord is, he could never hate again because God is love.

“How many of you are praying for him? Aren’t you servants! Aren’t you Christians! So you are a servant teaching in the Sunday School here, and you’ve broken the commandment of Christ to pray for this person?!”

So what do you think? How about we make a commitment to pray for them? Pray that they know the God of love? Pray that they experience the love of God? Because if they knew that God is love and experienced His love, they could not do these things–never, never, never.

They are a wretched lot. And because they are wretched, we must pray for them. But when someone loves God, he won’t know except love.

We need to pray for them so they can sleep at night. A person who has all this inside them, how can he sleep comfortably?

Can you imagine? We are being slaughtered and the King of Peace gives us peace to sleep. And the one who slaughters, all night he can’t sleep.

You know where this happens in the Bible? With Daniel and the king. Daniel is put in the lion’s den and he stays up all night praising God and praying for the king. And the king is up all night, tossing and turning, unable to sleep.

Pray for them. Take it as a command. Take it as a duty. Take it as the application of Christ’s instructions.

We must ALL pray for them today that God opens their eyes and open their hearts to His love.

Because if they knew Him, they could NEVER do this.

I don’t want to take too long. God comfort us. God give us understanding. God give us JOY because Christ’s promise is truth. He said, “I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy NO ONE will take from you” (John 16:22).

I’m embarrassed to say at the beginning of Holy Week that the Church, though she is in pain, rejoices because today–I don’t know what the final count is. They said 40-something, and, of course, many people in the hospitals will catch up to them. All of these are crowns. They are rejoicing with God. And they will attend the Resurrection up there. And they are praying for us. The rest is on us.

O, you lucky, lucky, lucky ones! And until it is our turn.

To our God be the glory now and forever. Amen.

 

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