...the question cannot be set as a conflict between Islam and Christianity. On the other hand, those who are carrying out these terrible actions against minorities do it in the name of an intolerant political-religious ideology. And this is something that should make one think.
Vatican City - Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for
the Evangelization of Peoples, who returned from Iraq last night after
his visit as personal envoy of Pope Francis, met the Pope this morning
to inform him about the mission entrusted to him.
Video by Catholic News Service
In the following
interview, the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation told Fides Agency
about the meetings and impressions that marked the days spent in the
devastated Middle Eastern Country
Eminence, your visit was an
emergency humanitarian trip which involved Christians and the other
inhabitants of northern Iraq. What did you see? It was a mission in the
suffering accomplished especially among Christians who escaped from
Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. Uprooted from their homes, from the
simplicity of their daily lives, to end up catapultated in an
unpredictable situation. To find oneself, from one day to the next,
without a home, without clothes, without all the bare necessities that
one takes for granted and that now no longer exist, such as no water to
wash oneself, with a temperature of 47 degrees. Or sleep on the street
or in the garden, under a tree or under a plastic cover. With women used
to working in the house, who appear disorientated. With children who
are perhaps the only ones who do not understand the drama of the
situation, and they run to and fro. With the elderly thrown in a corner
and the sick who do not know if there is a doctor or medicines for them.
Is there an encounter, an event that particularly struck you?
mother showed me her little 3 month girl, saying that while they were
fleeing from Mosul, the baby’s gold earrings were removed. The object in
itself is not important, but that violence also expresses contempt
towards the little ones. I said: they have removed the earrings, but the
most precious things are still with you: your child and your dignity.
This wounded dignity that no one could take away. They were happy. They
began to clap.
How were you welcomed? The fact that the Pope was
unable to be present personally and immediately sent his personal envoy -
not a diplomat, was a significant sign that he wanted to share
everything with them. And I lived those days among them. I felt
privileged compared to them, for the fact of having a room where to
sleep and a bit of water to wash my hands. But I shared everything with
them. I did not represent myself, but the Holy Father, and this sharing
everything with them was a sign of the Pope’s closeness. I visited
Christian and Yazidi villages. And then I participated in the life of
the local Church. Even the Bishops, priests, religious men and women had
to flee and had to find a place where to sleep. Through the envoy, the
Pope wanted to encourage everyone, tell everyone that they have not been
Returning from Korea, Pope Francis recognized that the
way to stop the unjust aggressor is to be sought in international
The Church as Church is and will always be against war. But
these poor people have the right to be defended. They have no weapons,
they have been driven out from their homes in a cowardly way, they have
not engaged the enemy.
How can one guarantee the right of these people to live in dignity in their own homes?
Certainly not giving way to violence and trying to contain it in every
way. But we cannot hear the cry of these people who tell us: help us,
and defend us.
For this purpose, would it not be useful to know in
the first place who provides money and weapons to jihadists, and aim at
stopping the flow?
These are bodies and groups that operate showing
that they are well supplied with arms and money, and one wonders how it
is possible that all this passage of arms and resources escapes the
control of those who have the duty to monitor and prevent such tragic
developments. The question I heard from many is that on "remote
control", on who moves things from far away. But I think that, for now,
it is difficult to give an answer.
You were Nuncio in Iraq under
Saddam Hussein. Can the current crisis be put in relation with the
events of 2003 and the way in which an end was put to that regime? Yes
and no. On the one hand, an upheaval in the Country that has created
many critical situations and suffering has been produced, even if we
must never forget that before there was not a calm and ideal situation.
On the other hand, more than ten years have gone by. The more we move
away from those events, the more one wonders if what is happening today
is just the fault of others and of those facts of the past, or if there
are other responsibilities. And we need to ask what has been done in all
this time, and what could have been done.
Even the Pope has
insisted that the victims of what is happening in Iraq are not only
Christians, but all minorities. What does this emphasis suggest?
in the West, the situation of Christians is known. But, for example,
the Yazidi have asked us to talk about them because - so I have been
told - "we are a people with no voice and no one talks about us". The
dramatic situations that I have seen and what they are experiencing
really makes them the first victims. But there are Shiite villages from
which all had to run away. And then the Mandaeans, and all other groups.
You spoke with influential political leaders both in Iraqi
Kurdistan and Baghdad. Do they still share a unifying perspective for
the future of the Country or are the centrifugal forces unstoppable now?
Iraq is a composite Country. A political-geographical expression which
appeared from 1920 onwards, where the extent of the Country is not
perceived as uniformity but as multiplicity. The Authorities and the
bishops speak of a mosaic of presences, cultures, and religions. Of
course if this mosaic remains intact it has its own beauty and a future.
But if one begins to remove the tiles, sooner or later everything can
The unity of the State is guaranteed by the
Constitution, but then it has to be realized in the life of the Country
and this is difficult, partly because each group carries their trauma,
suffering, long persecution, injustice. Now Iraq is a Country to be
rebuilt, and can remain united only if such units and the respect of
different identities find space.
In the West, some take advantage of the events in Iraq to relaunch the contrast between Christianity and Islam.
There is a fact: as I have already said, the attacks affect Christians,
Yazidis, Shiites, but also against Sunnis. So the question cannot be set
as a conflict between Islam and Christianity. On the other hand, those
who are carrying out these terrible actions against minorities do it in
the name of an intolerant political-religious ideology. And this is
something that should make one think.
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