A homily delivered by most Rev. Matthew Man-Oso Ndagoso at the funaral Mass of late Rev. Fr. Alphonsus Bello

“Wake Lord! Why are you asleep? Awake! Do not abandon us for good. Why do you turn your face away, forgetting that we are poor and harassed (Ps. 44:23).

Once again I welcome all of you that have come from far and near to share in our grief and to pray with us for late Fr. Alphonsus Yashim Bello who was gruesomely murdered on Friday, May 21, 2021. We have appreciated and will continue to appreciate your kind support and solidarity in our hour of need. We are indeed very grateful. May the good Lord reward you abundantly for your kind support and solidarity

I welcome in a special way the Bishop of Sokoto Most. Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah under whom Fr. Alphonsus worked and died and all the priests, the religious and the faithful of Sokoto Diocese who accompanied him to this funeral. And in a very special way I welcome family members of late Fr. Alphonsus especially his mother and siblings. I know that the last one year has been a very difficult one for the family. May the God of all consolations be your strength in these very difficult and trying moments.

We are gathered yet again to bury another young, energetic, dynamic, hardworking, dedicated and committed priest whose life was brutally and tragically cut short. We take consolation in the fact that the short priestly life of Fr. Alphonsus was an intense one. He lived a very active life and died in active service. He was a fide donum priest in the Diocese of Sokoto. He died on mission. For him it is mission accomplished.

The funeral mass celebrated at Our Lady’s Church in Kaduna.
The funeral mass celebrated at Our Lady’s Church in Kaduna.

Looking at the mortal remains of Fr. Alphonsus in front of all of us especially members of his immediate family and most especially his mother readily brings to mind the moving and pathetic story of Job and his three friends who visited him when he was afflicted by series of disasters as we heard a short while ago in the first reading. Overwhelmed by what they saw the friends wept aloud, tore their robes, threw dust over their heads and sat there beside Job for seven days and seven nights without uttering a word because they saw how much he was suffering (cf. Job 2: 11-13).

Experience has shown that at times like this, words do not simply add up, if anything, they become grossly inadequate to express our deepest feelings. I am sure this is the situation with many of us here in this church especially the family members of our late brother. Like the friends of Job, all we can do now is to sit beside each other especially beside the beloved of Fr. Alphonsus in deep silence and share in their grief.

Dear friends, it goes without saying that we are gathered here because of what happened on that black Friday night, May 21, 2021, when Fr. Alphonsus was brutally and gruesomely murdered. We are here therefore to commend his soul into the hands of our Merciful Father and to ask him to grant him the reward of eternal life.

Though shocked, saddened and shaken by the gruesome and tragic murder of Fr. Alphonsus we are not without hope or help. Consequently we are here also to do what the Bible enjoins us to do in situations like this, namely, to bless and not course those who persecute us and to weep with those who weep (cf. Rom. 12:14-16). In other words, we are here to pray for the repentance and conversion of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. We therefore pray that God will give the victims of these criminal activities and their loved ones the grace to forgive so that they do not become victims twice.

The Bible tells us that when Jesus died darkness covered the earth. His disciples and friends experienced darkness. They felt lost and disoriented. Their hopes and dreams crumbled. They had no idea that that darkness did not have the last say. Christ the word made flesh shined again through his glorious resurrection. We in the in the Archdiocese of Kaduna and the Diocese of Sokoto felt the way the disciples of Jesus felt on that faithful May 21, 2021.

Yes, on that darkest of nights, Friday night of May 21, a truly dark cloud hung over the catholic communities of the Archdiocese of Kaduna and the Diocese of Sokoto.

Talking about the dark clouds reminds me of the visit of Pope Benedict VI to Auschwitcz in May 2005. As we may well be aware, Auschwitcz is a concentration camp in Poland during the Second World War where millions of Jews were gassed to death by the German Nazis. In a speech at the camp the Pope said: “To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man is almost impossible…In a place like this, words fail, in the end, there can only be a dread silence – a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could you tolerate all this? How many questions arise in this place! Constantly the question comes up: Where was God in those days? Why was he silent? How could he permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil?”

On the 21st of May, Fr. Alphonsus Yashim Bello was killed by bandits in Nigeria. His body was found behind the Catechetical Training School in Malumfashi.
On the 21st of May, Fr. Alphonsus Yashim Bello was killed by bandits in Nigeria. His body was found behind the Catechetical Training School in Malumfashi.

Then quoting the words of Psalm 44,the Psalm of this liturgy and a psalm of Israel’s lament for its woes, sufferings and sorrows the Pope said: “‘You have broken us in the haunt of jackals, and covered us with deep darkness…because of you we are being killed all day long, and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, do not cast us off forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For we sink down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up, come to our help. Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love’” (Psalm 44:19, 22-26).

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this cry of anguish which Israel raised to God in its suffering, at moments of deep stress, is also the cry for help raised by all those who in every age suffer for the love of God, the love of truth and the love of goodness. And this is the anguish not only of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Kaduna and the Diocese of Sokoto but of most Nigerians today.

Like the Israelites of old, in difficult and trying moments, it is easy, very easy, to think that the God of compassion and love, the God of the persecuted and minorities is absent, deaf and dumb. As Christians and with the benefit of hindsight we know that the Israelites were never abandoned by God. He was always with them and always found a way for them to triumph over their enemies. We know that even when Jesus cried out on the cross, “Eloi Eloi, lama sabachtani” (“My God, my God, why have you abandon me” Mk. 15:34), he was not abandoned by his Father. He was right there with him on the cross hence his triumphant and glorious resurrection.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is not only legitimate but natural to be angry, complain and even query God’s seeming absence and silence in difficult and trying times such as the one our country and our state in particular are passing through. In point of fact such honest anger and complain to or against God are signs of trust and a healthy relationship with him. The legendary man of patience, Job, did that. In his time of intense suffering he not only complained but queried God. He said: “I cannot keep quiet: in my anguish of spirit I will speak, in my bitterness of soul I will complain…Why do you choose me as your target? Why should I be a burden to you? Can you not tolerate my sin, not overlook my fault” (Job 7: 11 and 20). We who believe know that that God is in all our situations because he is Emmanuel. He is with us, not sometimes but all the time. Consequently and by the grace of God we shall like the Jews of old be conquerors. God will surely see our country through these difficult and challenging times.

What we often construe as God’s deafness to our cry and absence in our difficult situations is in fact his powerful presence in silence. And as we know, silence is a powerful language of God. God was neither absent nor silent on that black Friday night of May 21, 2021 when Fr. Alphonsus was brutally murdered. He was right there with him as he was always with the Israelites in their various captivities and his Son hanging on the Cross. In the same vein we believe that God is with Fr. John Shokwello Bako, wherever he is, Fr. Francis Aweso Bako and his parishioners, Fr. Joseph Keke, Leah Sharibu, the remaining Chibok girls and indeed all in captivity because he is Emmanuel.

Our challenge as Christians is that whatever situation we find ourselves in we must continue to be children of our Father who is in heaven and the way to do this is to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (cf. Matt. 5:43) because love conquers all. This is the demand of our religion, no more, no less.

The faithful of the Archdiocese of Kaduna, the Diocese of Sokoto Diocese and the family of late Fr. Alphonsus are the real victims of this dastardly act. And painful as it is if we are not to remain victims forever, we have to take the right step moving forward, namely, forgive those who have done this to us even if we do not know them. Doing this will make us true disciples of our Master who did not only pray for the forgiveness of his executioners but also made excuses for them. He prayed: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:32). And this is truly the predicament of the murderer of Fr. Alphonsus and many others like them. They do not know what they do.

Nonetheless, we all know that we cannot talk about genuine forgiveness, reconciliation and peace without first of all working for justice and fair play for all. A situation where equal citizens are treated unequally because of ethnic, religious, political and social affiliation does not auger well for peace and peaceful co-existence.

If lasting peace is to be achieved in our country the causes of dissension such as excessive economic inequalities, disregard for people’s right, systemic and deliberate policies of exclusion, nepotism etc. This calls for a change of heart and deliberate efforts at the promotion of the common good. Peace as the fathers of the Second Vatican Council tell us is the fruit of the harmony built into human society by the Creator and is brought about by men and women as they strive to attain an even more perfect justice (cf. The Church in the Modern World, 78).

No one here needs telling that our country is currently at war; at war with religious fanatics, bandits, kidnappers, terrorists, AK47 wielding herders and opportunists who are criminals in every sense of the word, killing and maiming innocent Nigerians regardless of religion, ethnicity and political leanings. Therefore those charged with the constitutional duty of protecting and securing our lives and property should wake up from their slumbers and go after them.

In spite of all we remain grateful to our security agencies and thank them for making the best of the situation to protect us. They often put their lives on the line to secure us and many of them have lost their lives in the line of duty. We are grateful to them. It must be admitted that without them the situation would have been worst.

This said, I believe that like everything else in life there is always room for improvement. Our security agents need to work harder especially in the area of intelligence gathering, sharing and surveillance. It is truly incredible that with available technology what is happening is our country is happening. There is much left to be desired in this regard. Government should of necessity invest more in this area by adequately equipping them and take good care of their essential needs to motivate them.

Without adequate security that enables the citizens to freely conduct their legitimate businesses, the roads, railways, hospitals, schools etc that we build will become useless. These infrastructures can only be useful when there is peace and security enabling free and secure movements. Consequently protection of human life and security of property are of paramount importance to the country today more than anything else.

Given where we are, it goes without saying that our pastoral agents especially the priests live in challenging and even frightening times like other highlighted or visible Nigerians. In the words of St. Paul, we pastoral agents are subjected to all kinds of hardship but never distressed. We see no way out but never despair. We are pursued but never cut off. We are knocked down but still have some life in us. We carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus too may be visible in our body (cf. 2 Cor. 4:8-10).

Last Saturday one of our young priests, Fr. Kieran Gonap while addressing the congregation in Kukyer about the kidnap of Fr. Francis Aweso Bako and the murder of Fr. Alphonsus said: “With or without kidnapping the work of proclaiming the Gospel must go on. We cannot stop. We cannot run away.” I felt happy and encouraged by that. Fr. Gonap was actually re-echoing what St. Paul said to the suffering minority Christians of Rome when he asked rhetorically: “Can anything cut us off from the love of Christ – can hardships or distress, or persecution, or lack of food and clothing, or threats or violence; as scripture says: for your sake we are being massacred all day long, treated as sheep to be slaughtered? No, we come through all these things triumphantly victorious, by the power of him who loved us. For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm. 8: 35-39).

Dear brother priest, with all these serious challenges and threats to our lives, are we afraid? Why not? Are we frightened? Why not? Are we worried? Why not? We are rightly afraid, frightened and worried because we are human and it is nothing to be ashamed of.

However, be sure of this, the God who called us and entrusted his work to us is with us because he is Emmanuel. And this is his assurance to each of us: “Do not fear for I am with you. Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. All who are incensed against you will be ashamed and disgraced; those who strive against you will be as nothing and will perish. For I, the Lord your God, uphold your right hand, it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you. Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel” (Is. 41: 10-14).

Finally, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is my hope and prayer that these words of St. Paul to Timothy accompany Fr. Alphonsus Yashim Bello as we lay him to rest: “As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to depart. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come for me now is the crown of uprightness which the Lord, the upright judge, will give to me on that Day, and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4: 6-8).

May the Soul of Fr. Alphonsus Yashim Bello and the souls of all the faithful departed through the Mercy of God rest in perfect peace. Amen.

ON JUNE 1, 2021 AT OUR LADY’S CHURCH, INDEPENDENCE WAY, KADUNA

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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.