In Iraq, the auxiliary bishop of the Patriarchal City of Babylon of the Chaldeans is the 41 year old Mgr. Saad Sirop, to whom has been entrusted the titular bishopric location of Hirta.
He is a catholic Chaldean priest but he feels at home in the rectory of St. Pellegrino of Reggio: in fact, for his consecration which was held at the end of last January in the capital Baghdad, the parish priest Fr. Giuspeppe Dossetti was present. In occasion of the march for peace of 2008, Fr. Saad Sirop commemorated in our city, the bishop of Mosul, Mgr. Raho, who was kidnapped and killed. When he was parish priest of St. Joseph in Babylon, the same Fr. Saad was kidnapped on the 15th August 2006 and was then released on the following 11th September.
We have asked him some questions via email about the situation of Christians in Iraq. The following is his witnessing.
D. How many Christians are there actually in Iraq and in which districts do they live? We don't have precise statistics regarding the number of Christians in Iraq. Before 2003, the number was around 850,000. We believe that about two thirds of them left the Country during the last ten years. The majority can be found in the North of Iraq, in the lowland of Nineveh and in the other cities of Erbil, Dihok and Suaymania.
D. Are there other Christian confessions? The Christian confessions are various: the most diffused is the Chaldean Church. There are also Syro Catholics, Syro Orthodox and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Orthodox, Protestants and Evangelists.
D. How is the situation of the women and children? The situation of these families is very bad, especially that of the children and the women. They sleep on the roads and on the pavements and under precarious tents. This renders them very fragile and weak. They lack basic and essential things: water and electricity and the temperatures rises up to 45°.
D. What can the international community do? It can do a lot: introduce balance in foreign politics, intervene firmly to stop terrorism which somehow has been created by the western foreign politics. ISIS has been created and supported in Syria and has been established in Iraq. It has destroyed Christian existence in Iraq. We need a courageous and an auto-critical international community who is capable to ask: “what have we done for this population?!” The political pressure made on the Iraqi politicians was to form a government and to accomplish a true reconciliation among the Iraqi people and to issue laws which assure a just and pacific conviviality among the population.
D. What can the Italian Catholics do? A lot can be done by the Catholics: they can raise their voice for the persecuted brothers and create a Christian awareness of the situation of the Iraqi Christians. Your proximity with the Holy Father can perhaps also play an important role in putting the Church in motion to create an awareness of the Christians’ situation in Iraq. What meaning has our Christian mission in Iraq? During the last century and especially during the last forty years, our communities are forced to continue to find refuge as they try to flee the danger of terrorism and religious hatred. This puts us is front of the question: “what meaning has our mission in this land? How much could we change by the Muslims?”
… I would like to say that we need solidarity in all senses. The Christians’ destiny is found in solidarity and in communion. Thank you and may God bless you. Giuseppe Adriano Rossi