A Bishop speaks about the crisis in the Central African Republic: “The perils of life can never prevent the Church from prospering and growing.”

How is the situation generally in the country at the present time?

The Central African Republic is continuing to strive as best it can to emerge from the crisis that has affected it like a gangrene for the past five years and more. The new democratically elected authorities are struggling to assert their authority throughout the country and in fact over 80% of the territory is still under the control of rebel groups, who now number around 15 altogether. From the point of view of security we can differentiate between three different zones according to the level of insecurity – red, yellow and green. The major part of the country is firmly in the red zone of extreme insecurity, completely under the domination of the rebel groups. The yellow zone is one in which the rebel activity is somewhat mitigated, and the green zone is the area in which the authority of the state appears to be present.


Bishop Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa
Bishop Cyr-Nestor Yapaupa, diocese of Alindao.

Is there continuing confrontation between the different rebel groups?

The permeability of the frontiers provides an opportunity to the mercenaries and to all those seeking to take advantage of this war, enabling them to exploit the mineral resources of the country and above all permitting the free circulation of arms and munitions. The arms embargo placed on the Central African Republic has simply plunged the country into an impossible cycle of insecurity, since whereas the legitimate authorities are attempting to comply with the conditions of the embargo, the rebel groups can obtain all kinds of weapons at little cost.

The clashes between the various rebel groups, the threat of division of the country or destabilisation of the governing regime, and the upsurge of new rebel factions continue to be the outstanding features of the situation in the Central African Republic.

How is the situation in your own diocese? Alindao has been at the centre of some of these fratricidal struggles in recent years. What is happening at the present time?

The prefecture Basse-Kotto in the diocese of Alindao is held hostage on the one hand by the faction known as the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic – a group that has emerged from the Seleka and the Muslim militias – commonly known as the mujahedin, and on the other by the self defence groups also known as the Anti-balaka. Meanwhile the civilian population finds itself between a rock and a hard place. For some time now the two groups have switched to a new strategy: rather than confront each other directly they instead set up roadblocks and ambushes on the highways, choosing their victims arbitrarily and above all from among the civilian population, who are simply trying to get on with their lives as best they can. This new strategy is claiming more victims, and the majority of their bodies have not even been found as yet.

How is this affecting your work in your diocese?

On a daily basis it is difficult, if not impossible, to travel from one town or village to another, owing to the insecurity on the roads, with the result that these places are left isolated from one another. There are numerous reprisal killings directed against civilians, both by the Seleka and the anti-balaka.

The rule of the State has been replaced by that of the armed groups, and this despite the presence of the MINUSCA forces – the so-called “UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic” – in the prefecture and some of the sub-prefectures, whose role is basically limited to showing its face without doing anything. In the absence of an official judicial system, mob justice has taken over. The armed groups set themselves up as judges at every level and use torture, mutilation and execution with impunity as a means of repression and punishment against all who oppose them.

In a region like ours, plunged as it is into a situation of insecurity, peace and stability are a volatile and uncertain commodity, because the rebel leaders dictate their own laws of the jungle and act with total impunity, given the absence of any state authority and the lethargy and inaction of the UN forces.


Central African Republic
Central African Republic

The violence has caused thousands of people to flee. Where are these refugees?

So many families have been victims of the violence in Basse-Kotto that this has led to large movements of refugees. Some are living crowded together in their thousands in a few refugee camps, while others are scattered through the mountains. Then again there are those who have chosen exile in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. For example, in the city of Alindao alone, there are over 30,000 refugees, gathered in four separate refugee camps.

Who is taking care of them?

In the town of Alindao at least, they are being cared for by various international and national NGOs, including the diocesan Caritas, who are providing health care, education, protection, water supplies, sanitation and hygiene. As for the other towns and villages, which cannot be reached owing to the savagery of the rebel groups, the people there are unfortunately deprived of any humanitarian support. These include such subprefectures as Mingala, Satéma, Mobaye and Zangba, whose populations are without any help at all.

According to what we have heard, in these areas the level of mortality is very high, both among pregnant women and among children of five years and under. Women are giving birth in the mountains without any help from nurses or midwives, since there are no functioning healthcare facilities available.

In addition, a great many religious houses and places of worship have been destroyed, and the prefecture of Basse-Kotto has been left with thousands of ghost villages. The refugee camps have now replaced the traditional towns and villages.

What about MINUSCA? Have there been any complaints about its role and effectiveness? What can you tell us about it?

MINUSCA is present in some of the larger towns of the diocese (Alindao, Mobaye, Dimbi and Pavica). It is doing what it can, but not enough to satisfy the expectations of the refugees nor of the existing population. In practice is presence is almost entirely symbolic, at least in the eyes of the ordinary people. And the fact is that, despite the deployment of the UN troops, the modus operandi of the rebel groups has not changed. They don’t seem to be in the least concerned or scared by the mobile weaponry of the international forces. The insecurity continues as before, as do the excesses against the ordinary population. The convoys of vehicles protected by the blue helmets are not an effective guarantee of the free circulation of goods and peoples. And the connivance between some of the UN contingents and certain of the rebel groups, along with their willingness to engage in racketeering, calls into question their lofty principles of supposed impartiality and neutrality, etc. The result is that the people become exasperated and see the UN forces as exploiters, as pernicious and useless, owing to their mediocre performance.


Central African Republic: Rebels
Central African Republic: Rebels

How is your pastoral work affected by the violence all around you?

Generally speaking, the pastoral life of the diocese is paralysed on account of the prevailing insecurity. A few of our priests and Catholic faithful are split between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic (this includes the people of Mobaye, Zangba and Kongbo), while others have joined the community in Alindao (notably the people of Pavica, Kembe, Mingala/Poudjo and Tagbale). The Christian population of these parishes and areas is scattered among the various refugee camps, while a few have taken refuge in the forest and others are still living in exile. Their chapels are in ruins, or have been burnt out and even profaned by the rebel groups. The priests can no longer organise pastoral visits to the rural communities or even to those on the outskirts of the towns. Some of the parish houses have been vandalised, some totally, others partially (Kembe, Mobaye and Zangba). Only the cathedral parish in Alindao and the one in Mobaye are still functioning, while those in Kongbo and  Zangba have now tentatively resumed their activities. As far as the parish of Kembé is concerned, access to the districts of Mingala/Poudjo and Tagbalé continues to be difficult because of the climate of insecurity. The catechists there are giving spiritual support to the people.

The last community of religious sisters, the Oblates of the Heart of Jesus, were forced to leave the diocese in 2014 owing to the constant threats to their safety. We are awaiting the arrival of a new community of sisters in the parish for the beginning of the 2018-2019 pastoral year, but we still have to repair the convent, which was ransacked and vandalised by the Seleka.

Given this situation, are you still able to respond to the spiritual needs of your flock?

Given the precarious security situation and the drastically dehumanising socio-economic conditions, which are plunging people into desolation, despair, fatalism and uncertainty, to the point of seeing a complete breakdown in their Christian faith, it is absolutely imperative for the diocese to give proof of its concern and solidarity and attend to the spiritual needs of the believers.

In the present context, the social and pastoral outreach and the mission of evangelization are proving difficult but not impossible. In this situation what is important is what one could call the “ministry of presence/proximity”. So even though in other parishes and areas the pastoral workers are absent out of fear for their security, there is nonetheless a small remnant of the clergy who are assuring a meaningful presence, together with the paternal support of the bishop in Kongbo and in the parish community of Mobaye.

Together with the clergy we daily confront the fear, the threats and the insecurity in order to demonstrate our presence actively and calm the fears of the refugees. Though it is not much more than a simple presence, we managed to foster a sense of closeness by meeting with people, listening to them, visiting, counselling, sharing moments of joy and pain… This pastoral of presence also includes administering the various sacraments and other forms of spiritual service in the refugee camps: the Sacrament of the sick, viaticum, baptism, confession, confirmation, lectio divina in the basic ecclesial communities, movements and fraternities… All of this is a way of bearing witness to the fact that the dangers of life can never prevent the Church from prospering and growing.

What are some of the other priorities in your diocese?

“Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” exclaims Saint Paul (1 Corinthians 9:16). Preaching the Gospel continues to be a must every Christian, in accordance with the missionary mandate we have received from Christ. Our Christian communities that are still functioning are assiduous in attending to the Word of God in our Eucharistic celebrations during these critical times. The Word of God continues to be the foundation of consolation and hope for our Catholic faithful.

And also, even in the midst of of this crisis, the formation of our laity is a top pastoral priority, a formation aimed especially at the catechists, community leaders, movements and fraternities, and with special attention to the work for children and young people, since many of our young people have dabbled in syncretist practices that are very harmful to their faith and their future.

Finally, we are also devoting time to ecumenical work. Twice a month the parish community meets together with members of other religious faiths to organise ecumenical prayer vigils and fasts.

In your view, are the priests and religious equipped to tackle these difficulties?

The magnitude of the crisis, especially at the end of the first semester in 2017, was a surprise to many because we were not prepared for it. Many priests are still traumatised because they were victims of looting and ransacking or forced, helpless, to witness the murder of their faithful, while others were attacked or even threatened with death. Sadly, up till now they have not received any psychological counselling or support, but they are still trying to maintain their morale so as to be able to comfort their despairing faithful, who have even greater need of being “de-traumatised”.

Who is helping them? Who is providing them with moral support while hoping that they will give this support to others?

The clergy find consolation in their faith in Christ and in the unshakeable solidarity that unites the priests around their life of prayer, the celebration of the Eucharist and the chance to share moments of joy and pain. I have realised that during this time of crisis the near permanent presence of the bishop in the diocese is helping to sustain the morale of the priests and the faithful. In the same way the paternal visits by Cardinal Nzapalainga to the diocese of Alindao and Mobaye were of great help in revitalising and comforting not only the Christians but the entire community of refugees, who have been languishing in these camps for over a year now.

How are relations between Christians and Muslims?

Relations between Christians and Muslims vary from one place to another. In some towns and villages coexistence is virtually impossible. There are some roads that people of one particular community or another simply cannot travel, for fear of the worst. However, in other towns and villages the Christians and Muslims are maintaining contact, even though this is no guarantee of peaceful coexistence. Despite this outward coexistence, an attitude is developing in each community of mistrust towards the other. The fear of the other has since developed into a new way of living which now characterises our interpersonal and intercommunity relations.

At all events, we are trusting that reconciliation is possible, because we are convinced that what is happening in the Central African Republic is not a religious war. We have been working ever since the beginning of the crisis to help the different faith communities to understand this fact, and equally we do not fail to remind people of this in order to encourage social cohesion. And while these initiatives appear to be bearing fruit, we continue to apply them patiently.

You speak of reconciliation. What, in your view would be the conditions for this to be possible?

We are convinced that reconciliation is possible, provided that the State can reassert its authority in Basse-Kotto, can guarantee the security of the civilian population, disarm the rebel groups and provide justice for the victims. In addition to this it will be necessary for all the religious and community leaders to engage, sincerely and courageously, in promoting peaceful coexistence.

One of the principal problems is the lack of spiritual and intellectual formation and the number of young people who have abandoned the Christian faith, seduced by animism and superstition. How is the Church responding?

It is undeniable that during this most recent crisis many Christians, above all young people, have abandoned their faith in favour of syncretist practices, such as witchcraft, fetishism and the occult.

That is why, in the midst of this crisis, we have made the establishment of children’s and youth movements into a pastoral priority.

We have also developed a pastoral outreach of listening and catechetical accompaniment, so that we can investigate and discern together with these young people the deeper reasons behind their behaviour and help them to progressively rediscover their Christian faith. Some of them have already taken the step of conversion and returned – like the prodigal son – and been welcomed and helped to find their place within the Christian community, following a penitential path. But the real challenge for the diocese is to give these young people the opportunity to become reintegrated in the social and professional life of the community.

We have to admit in fact that these animist and superstitious practices are not an end in themselves. It is not necessarily animism or superstition that seduces young people, but rather the advantages they hope to gain by becoming involved in the rebel groups. Hence these outlandish practices are a means for young people living in idleness to furnish themselves with a new personality so that they can become part of the armed groups and pursue their own personal interests. Because in a country where a high rate of unemployment and idleness has become the norm, the armed groups sometimes appear to them like a “profession” to which these young people are blindly attracted. And so the response of the Church to the abandonment of the faith must inevitably also involve helping the young to become usefully involved by providing them with some form of vocational training and the establishment of micro-projects.

Is there a particular message you would like to convey to the benefactors of ACN?

We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all our benefactors for their generosity and solidarity, because it is thanks to you that the diocese has been able to respond to the dehumanising situation facing the people by providing healthcare education, Christian formation of the faithful and caring for the clergy. Many thanks for the help you are giving us! The presence of the priests and their missionary spirit of self-denial as they work among the displaced faithful who are living in poverty is a continuing and powerful testimony by our youthful diocese which, ever since its infancy, has known nothing but difficult times and which is now struggling to rise again from its ashes. We commend all our pastoral workers, who are working day and night to alleviate the suffering of the thousands of refugees and instil courage into their troubled hearts, to the prayers of our benefactors and to their generosity.

We plainly acknowledge that the diocese of Alindao is still a vast field of work where everything has to be rebuilt following the painful events which continue to destabilise the Central African Republic. Without doubt we still face a great many urgent challenges – the care of our pastoral workers, logistics, rebuilding of our infrastructure, the pastoral outreach to and vocational and professional formation of our young people, healthcare, education and the promotion of good intercommunity relations, etc. And we trust in you to be always at our side to help us to confront these long-term challenges. Because the situation is a grave one!

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Que signifie pour vous cette visite ?

La visite du Pape nous remontera le moral, plus que toute autre chose. Tous les yeux de la planète seront dirigés vers Baghdeda. Le monde saura ainsi ce qui est arrivé à cette ville : les terribles destructions et la migration forcée. Ce serait également bien si nous recevions ensuite un peu plus d’aide et de soutien. Cette visite est très importante pour nous qui sommes ici, surtout après l’énorme migration forcée de tant des nôtres. Cette visite signifie que nous ne sommes pas seuls et qu’il y a des gens qui prient pour nous. Cela nous donnera de l’espoir, nous encouragera à rester dans notre pays et à ne pas le quitter.

Qu’aimeriez-vous dire au Saint-Père ?

Si j’ai l’occasion de le rencontrer, je voudrais le remercier pour sa visite qui nous rend très heureux, et pour ses prières. Je tiens également à le remercier pour toute l’aide qu’il nous a procurée ces derniers temps. Je n’oublie pas sa grande solidarité et le geste qu’il a fait en vendant aux enchères la Lamborghini qu’on lui avait donnée pour soutenir avec l’argent récolté la reconstruction de la plaine de Ninive. Je voudrais aussi qu’il continue à prier pour nous afin que la paix arrive en Irak.

Qu’aimeriez-vous lui montrer à Qaraqosh/Baghdeda ? Que devrait-il visiter ?

Je voudrais lui montrer l’église historique Al-Tahira et des photos de Baghdeda, je voudrais qu’il voie comment l’État Islamique l’a détruite et comment les gens d’ici ont eu le courage de la reconstruire.

¿Qué significa la visita para usted?
La visita del Papa levantará el ánimo y la moral, más que cualquier otra cosa. Todos los ojos del mundo se dirigirán a Baghdeda. Así, el mundo sabrá lo que le sucedió a esta ciudad. La terrible destrucción y la migración forzada. También sería bueno si luego recibimos más ayuda y apoyo. Esta visita es realmente importante para nosotros, los que estamos aquí, especialmente después de la enorme migración forzada de tantos de los nuestros. La visita significa que no estamos solos y hay quienes rezan por nosotros. Esto nos dará esperanza, nos animará a permanecer en nuestra tierra y no dejarla.

¿Qué le gustaría decirle al santo padre?
Si tengo la oportunidad de encontrarme con él: quiero agradecerle su visita, que nos hace muy felices, y su oración. También quiero darle las gracias por todo lo que nos ha ayudado durante el último periodo. No me olvido de su gran solidaridad y del gesto de subastar el Lamborghini para apoyar con ese dinero la reconstrucción de la llanura de Nínive. También quiero que siga orando por nosotros para que la paz llegue a Irak.

¿Qué le gustaría mostrarle en Baghdeda /Qaraqosh? ¿Qué debería visitar?
Quiero mostrarle la histórica iglesia Al-Tahira y fotos de Baghdeda, quiero que vea cómo fue destruida por ISIS y cómo la gente de aquí ha sido tan fuerte para reconstruirla nuevamente.

Was bedeutet der Besuch für Sie?
Der Besuch des Papstes wird die Stimmung und die Moral heben, mehr als alles andere. Alle Augen der Welt werden auf Baghdida gerichtet sein. Dann wird die Welt erfahren, was mit dieser Stadt passiert ist, die schreckliche Zerstörung und die erzwungene Migration. Es wäre auch gut, wenn wir anschließend mehr Hilfe und Unterstützung bekommen würden. Dieser Besuch ist wirklich wichtig für uns hier, besonders nach der großen Zwangsmigration so vieler unserer Leute. Der Besuch bedeutet, dass wir nicht allein sind, und dass es Menschen gibt, die für uns beten. Das wird uns Hoffnung geben, es wird uns ermutigen, in unserem Land zu bleiben und es nicht zu verlassen.

Was würden Sie dem Heiligen Vater gerne sagen?
Wenn ich die Gelegenheit habe, ihn zu treffen: Ich möchte ihm für seinen Besuch, der uns sehr glücklich macht, und für sein Gebet danken. Ich möchte mich auch bei ihm für alles bedanken, was uns in der letzten Zeit geholfen hat. Ich werde nie seine große Solidarität vergessen sowie die Geste, den Lamborghini zu versteigern (siehe Link zur Meldung), um mit diesem Geld den Wiederaufbau der Ninive-Ebene zu unterstützen. Ich möchte auch, dass er weiterhin für uns betet, damit im Irak Frieden einkehrt.

Was möchten Sie ihm in Baghdida /Karakosch zeigen? Was sollte er besuchen?
Ich möchte ihm die historische Al-Tahira-Kirche zeigen und Bilder von Baghdida, ich möchte, dass er sieht, wie alles von ISIS zerstört wurde und welcher Kraft die Menschen hier es wiederaufgebaut haben.

What does the Pope’s visit mean to you?
The papal visit will lift up our spirits and morale more than anything else. All the eyes of the world will be on Baghdeda. And in this way the world will know what happened to this city. The terrible destruction and the forcible ethnic cleansing. It will also be a good thing if afterwards we get more support and help. This visit is really important to us, to those of us who are living here, especially after the massive ethnic cleansing and expulsion of so many of us. His visit means that we are not alone and that there are people who are praying for us. This will give us fresh hope and encourage us to persevere, here on our own soil, and not leave it.

What would you like to say to the Holy Father?
If I get the opportunity to meet him, I would like to be able to thank him for his visit, which has made us very happy, and for his prayers. I would also like to thank him for all he has done to help us in recent times. I have not forgotten his great gesture of solidarity in auctioning the Lamborghini in order to use the money to help pay for the reconstruction of our homes on the Niniveh plains. I would also like to ask him to continue praying for us and for peace to return to Iraq.

What would you like to show him in Qaraqosh/ Baghdeda? Which places should he visit?
I would like to show him our historic Al-Tahira church, and some photos of Baghdeda. I’d like him to be able to see how it was destroyed by IS and how the people here have worked so hard recently to rebuild it once more.

Qu’est-ce que cette visite signifie pour vous ?

La visite du Pape est ce que nous désirions le plus ici. C’est une grande bénédiction. Nous avons un grand désir de le voir. Ce qui rajoute de l’importance à cette visite, c’est la situation de vulnérabilité que nous, chrétiens, subissons en Irak. Il y a plusieurs raisons à cette fragilité, toutes sont les séquelles de l’État Islamique. Toutes ces destructions ont grandement contribué à l’émigration des chrétiens. De nombreux problèmes pèsent sur nous. Mais par sa visite, le Pape nous donnera de l’espérance et de la confiance, il nous encouragera et réduira notre fardeau. Bien que la situation soit instable en Irak en ce qui concerne la sécurité, tout spécialement dans le domaine politique, on s’attend à ce qu’à l’arrivée du Pape, sa sécurité soit correctement assurée.

Qu’aimeriez-vous dire au Saint-Père ?

Je voudrais lui demander de me donner sa bénédiction, de bénir mon travail et le dévouement des prêtres d’ici, et de bénir le peuple par ses prières. Je voudrais lui demander d’aider tous ceux qui sont en danger dans ce pays, qu’ils soient chrétiens ou musulmans. Qu’il tente de mobiliser les pays du monde entier pour soutenir ce pays qui a besoin d’aide.

Qu’aimeriez-vous lui montrer à Qaraqosh/Baghdeda ? Que devrait-il visiter ?

J’aimerais qu’il visite l’église Al-Tahira, parce que c’est un symbole et un élément du patrimoine de Baghdeda. Cette église est la mère, le foyer et le patrimoine de chacun des habitants de Baghdeda. Nos ancêtres ont construit cette église, nous avons tous le sentiment d’en faire partie. Bien sûr, nous serions heureux qu’il visite de nombreux endroits, des églises, monastères et maisons traditionnelles, et qu’il rencontre également beaucoup de gens qui ont le désir de le voir.

¿Qué significa la visita para usted?
La visita del Papa es lo que más hemos deseado aquí. Es una gran bendición. Sentimos un gran anhelo de verlo. Lo que agrega importancia a esta visita son las condiciones tan vulnerables que sufrimos los cristianos en Irak. Hay varios motivos para esa fragilidad, todas las secuelas que ha dejado el ISIS, esa enorme destrucción ha llevado en gran medida a la emigración de cristianos. Muchos problemas pesan sobre nosotros. Pero cuando nos visite, nos dará esperanza, confianza y aliento y reducirá esta carga. Además del hecho de que la situación de seguridad en Irak, especialmente la política, es inestable, se espera que a la llegada del Papa se garantice su seguridad de manera correcta.

¿Qué le gustaría decirle al santo padre?
Querría pedirle que me dé su bendición, que bendiga mi servicio y la entrega de los sacerdotes aquí y que bendiga al pueblo a través de sus plegarias. Le pido que ayude a todos los que están en peligro en este país, ya sean cristianos o musulmanes. Que intente movilizar a los países del mundo para que apoyen a este país que necesita ayuda.

 ¿Qué le gustaría mostrarle en Baghdeda / Qaraqosh? ¿Qué debería visitar?
Me encantaría que visite la iglesia Al-Tahira, porque es símbolo y patrimonio de Baghdeda. Esta iglesia es madre, hogar y herencia de cada uno de los habitantes de Baghdeda. Nuestros antepasados ​​construyeron esta iglesia, todos nos sentimos parte de ella. Ciertamente, nos alegraría que visitara muchos lugares, iglesias, monasterios y casas tradicionales,  también que vea a muchas personas que anhelan verlo.

Was bedeutet der Besuch für Sie?
Der Besuch des Papstes ist das, was wir uns hier am meisten gewünscht haben. Es ist ein großer Segen. Wir spüren eine starke Sehnsucht, ihn zu sehen. Was diesen Besuch noch wichtiger macht, sind die äußerst prekären Bedingungen, unter denen wir Christen im Irak leiden. Es gibt mehrere Gründe für diese Zerbrechlichkeit. All die Folgen, die ISIS hinterlassen hat, diese enorme Zerstörung hat in großem Maße zur Auswanderung von Christen geführt. Viele Probleme lasten auf uns. Aber wenn er uns besucht, wird er uns Hoffnung, Zuversicht und Ermutigung geben und diese Last verringern. Auch wenn die Sicherheitslage im Irak, insbesondere die politische Situation, instabil ist, hoffen wir, dass bei der Ankunft des Papstes seine Sicherheit ausreichend gewährleistet ist.


Was würden Sie dem Heiligen Vater gerne sagen?
Ich möchte ihn bitten, mir seinen Segen zu geben, meinen Dienst und die Hingabe der Priester hier zu segnen und die Menschen durch seine Gebete zu segnen. Ich bitte ihn, all jenen zu helfen, die in diesem Land in Gefahr sind, ob sie nun Christen oder Muslime sind; und die Länder der Welt zu mobilisieren, um dieses Land, das Hilfe braucht, zu unterstützen.

Was möchten Sie ihm in Baghdida / Karakosch zeigen? Was sollte er besuchen?
Ich möchte, dass er die Al-Tahira-Kirche besucht, denn sie ist ein Symbol und Erbe von Baghdida. Diese Kirche ist die Mutter, die Heimat und das Vermächtnis eines jeden einzelnen Menschen in Baghdida. Unsere Vorfahren haben diese Kirche erbaut, wir alle fühlen uns als Teil von ihr. Sicherlich würden wir uns freuen, wenn er viele Orte, Kirchen, Klöster und traditionelle Häuser besuchen würde, und auch, wenn er viele Menschen treffen würde, die sich danach sehnen, ihn zu sehen.

What does the visit mean to you?
The papal visit is the thing we have longed for most of all here. It will be a great blessing. We have a great yearning to see him. What gives added importance to this visit is the so very vulnerable situation that we are suffering as Christians in Iraq. There are many reasons for this vulnerability, including the aftermath of what IS left behind, the enormous destruction which has led in such large measure to the emigration of the Christians. There are many problems weighing on us. But when he comes to visit us, he will give us new hope and confidence and some relief from this burden. In addition there is the fact that the security situation in Iraq, and especially the political situation, is so unstable, so we are hoping that when the Pope does arrive they will guarantee his security in the way that they should.


What would you like to say to the Holy Father?
I would like to ask him to give me his blessing, to bless my ministry and the hard work of all the priests here, and also to bless all the people through his prayers. I would ask him to help all those in danger in this country, whether they are Christians or Muslims. And that he might strive to encourage the countries of the world to support this nation, which is truly in need.

What would you like to show him in Qaraqosh/ Baghdeda? What places ought he to visit?
I would love him to visit the Al-Tahira church, because it is a symbol and a rich cultural legacy of Baghdeda. This church is the mother, the home and the inheritance of every one of the inhabitants of Baghdeda. Our forefathers built this church, and we all feel we are a part of it. Of course, we would be happy for him to visit many different places – churches, monasteries and traditional homes – and also for him to be able to meet all the many people who are longing to see him.

Que signifie pour vous cette visite ?

Elle a une valeur morale, et non pas économique. Cette question occupera l’opinion publique mondiale, et tout spécialement irakienne. J’ai l’impression d’y tenir une place importante.


Qu’aimeriez-vous dire au Saint-Père ?

Ce sera formidable de faire sa connaissance, et je voudrais lui dire : « Nous avons besoin d’une protection internationale parce que notre communauté chrétienne a subi une migration forcée ».

Qu’aimeriez-vous lui montrer à Qaraqosh/Baghdeda ? Que devrait-il visiter ?

J’aimerais lui montrer les églises et les maisons brûlées, afin qu’il voie les dégâts que l’État Islamique a laissés derrière lui dans cette ville. Et aussi notre Musée du patrimoine de Baghdeda pour lui présenter notre histoire et notre culture.

¿Qué significa la visita para usted?
La visita tiene un valor moral, no económico. Este tema ocupará la opinión pública en el mundo y especialmente en Irak. Siento que tengo un lugar importante en él.


¿Qué le gustaría decirle al santo padre?
Será genial conocerlo y querría decirle “necesitamos protección internacional, porque nuestra comunidad cristiana ha sufrido una migración forzada”.

¿Qué le gustaría mostrarle en Baghdeda /Qaraqosh? ¿Qué debería visitar?
Me gustaría mostrarle las iglesias y las casas quemadas, para que vea el daño que dejó ISIS en esta ciudad. Y también nuestro Museo del patrimonio de Baghdeda para presentarle nuestro historia y cultura.

Was bedeutet der Besuch für Sie?
Der Besuch hat einen moralischen Wert, keinen wirtschaftlichen. Er wird die öffentliche Meinung in der Welt und insbesondere im Irak beherrschen. Ich habe das Gefühl, dass ich einen wichtigen Anteil daran habe.

Was würden Sie dem Heiligen Vater gerne sagen?
Es wird großartig sein, ihn zu treffen, und ich möchte ihm sagen: „Wir brauchen internationalen Schutz, weil unsere christliche Gemeinschaft unter der erzwungenen Auswanderung gelitten hat“.

Was möchten Sie ihm in Baghdida /Karakosch zeigen? Was sollte er besuchen?
Ich möchte ihm die Kirchen und ausgebrannten Häuser zeigen, damit er den Schaden sieht, den ISIS in dieser Stadt angerichtet hat. Und auch unser Heimatmuseum in Baghdida, um ihm unsere Geschichte und Kultur näher zu bringen.

What does this visit mean to you?
This visit has a moral value rather than an economic one. This is a topic that will engage public opinion around the world and especially in Iraq. I feel as though I have an important part to play in it.

What would you like to say to the Holy Father?

It would be wonderful to be able to meet him, and I would like to be able to say to him, “We need international protection, because our Christian community was forcibly displaced.”

What would you like to show him in Qaraqosh/ Baghdeda? What places should he visit?
I would like to be able to show him the churches and houses that were burnt out, so that he could see the destruction left behind by IS in this city. And also our Baghdeda Heritage Museum, so that we can show him our history and culture.