Pope Francis visit to Iraq, the pontifex should meet the refugees from Makhmour camp

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From 5th to 8th March 2021, Pope Francis will be on a visit to Iraq. The pontifex will visit the Iraqi Kurdistan region capital, Erbil, wherein the Ankawa neighborhood, there is an important Christian community. Then he will go to Baghdad and Mosul, infamously known as the caliphate capital, also, for the persecutions against Christians in Quaraqosh, an ancient Assyrian settlement, once the largest center of Christianity in Iraq.

A four-day trip which, Vatican news reports, “represents a concrete gesture of closeness to the entire population of that tormented country.” According to the website of the Holy See, the pilgrimage intends to reaffirm the importance of preserving the historical Christian presence, the need to guarantee their safety, and a place in the future of the country. A topic already addressed by the Pope on January 25, in the Vatican, during his meeting with the Iraqi President Barham Salih.

Before 2003, the year of the beginning of the war in Iraq that decreed the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, there were about 1.4 million Christians in the country. But the harsh years of war, the invasion by ISIS militias of the Nineveh plain north-east of Mosul, led to a massive reduction in the number, between 300-400 thousand. The visit of the pontifex is set when ISIS returns to make all its brutality felt, with a double suicide bombing, on January 21st in the capital, in a crowded street near Tayaran square, not far from Tahrir Square, epicenter of anti-government protests against high prices and corruption. The explosions caused the death of 35 people and the wounding of 80 others. The pope’s visit in the country, with his message of peace and reconciliation, could rekindle hope among Christians and moderate Muslims.

The humanitarian volunteer organization Towards Kurdistan (Vik) also asked for a word of comfort for the refugees from Makhmour, forgotten or even unknown to the world. “Your Holiness, on the occasion of your visit to the tormented Iraqi lands, a territory still crossed today by winds of war and unspeakable violence, which have shattered multi-ethnic and multi-confessional communities, we ask you to also meet the refugees from the camp Makhmour, in the province of Mosul, and the Yazidi people of Sinjar, in the north-west of the country. Those lands cannot fail to remind us of the figure of Father Dall’Oglio, an exile in Sulaymaniyah, then kidnapped in Syria.” It is the heartfelt appeal of the NGO.

The request for a Bergoglio’s meeting with the two communities has received many adhesions from authoritative political figures, the academic world, culture, journalism, civil society. But also, from ordinary people, who care about their fate of the field. Today 15,000 refugees from the Botana region in south-eastern Turkey live in Makhmour. That is in an arid area, and water is the most precious asset. There are no dams and direct canals; the supply occurs through tankers that supply families. In recent months, the camp has been organizing itself to channel drinking water.

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