BURKINA FASO: “No creed can justify violence, and still less can invoke its faith in order to perpetrate violence”

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Rafael D’Aquí, the project section head with responsibility for Burkina Faso in the international Catholic pastoral charity ACN International, recently visited this African country to study the needs of the local Catholic Church. In the interview below with Maria Lozano he explains the situation of the country following the terrorist attack on 13 August in which 17 people were killed. For now, despite the growing Islamic influence of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, the relationship between Muslims and Christians in the country is still a peaceful one.

Mr D’Aqui, you returned just a few weeks ago from Burkina Faso, where you visited various projects sponsored by ACN. On the evening of Sunday 13 August 17 people were killed in an attack on a restaurant in the capital Ouagadougou. Do we know yet who was behind the attack, and have ACN’s project partners in the country commented on it?

It is tragic to see the country assailed yet again by the catastrophe of terrorism, a plague that is so difficult to eradicate. So far we do not have any news of a specific group that has claimed responsibility for the attack. The president of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Paul Ouedraogo has made an official statement deploring the attack and stating that “no creed can justify violence, and still less invoke its faith in order to perpetrate it.” The bishops have called for prayers for national unity and for the work of peace.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”9018″ img_size=”medium”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]For although there have been few incidents of Islamist violence hitherto, this is not the first time that the country has been targeted by jihadists, only last year – on 16 January 2016 –  30 people were killed in an Islamist terrorist attack on a restaurant and hotel, again in the capital Ouagadougou. Were you yourself concerned when you visited the country?

I had earlier been to the country in 2008 and I had noticed the increase in security measures, especially for people travelling. The terrorist attack of 2016, which was attributed to the terrorist organisation Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was intended above all as an attack on foreigners – the hotel and restaurant that were targeted were known for their international clientele. This time too it is thought that the terrorists last Monday were trying to gain international attention, since many of those killed were again foreigners… During our recent visit there, we were also in some high-risk areas such as Djibasso and Dori, on the frontier with Mali and Niger; there were many roadside checks there. I can imagine that they will be increasing security still more, though they know that in the end the terrorists could be your neighbour or some other individual living next door to you, who has been silently radicalised. It is a very sad fact. People have to come together against radicalisation. Nonetheless, I do not believe that these terrible events have changed the good relations between local Christians and Muslims. The general reaction of local Muslims to these acts of violence is a rejection of radicalism.

How has the Christian community reacted? Has the situation perhaps changed after all, following this latest attack?

I was impressed by the words of Auxiliary Bishop Leopold Ouedraogo of Ouagadougou who spoke on Tuesday 15th August – two days after the attack – during the celebration of the Assumption in Yagma, the largest Marian shrine in the country. Thousands of people had gathered there to celebrate their faith, following the tragic attack. Bishop Leopold expressed his joy at seeing that so many people were not afraid of “those who can kill the body, but who cannot kill the soul” and he declared, “Some people might think that the most recent events of 13 August might have discouraged us, but we are here because ‘if the Lord does not build up the house, in vain do the builders labour’. And if the Lord is with us, we need fear nothing. To the families of the victims we send a message of compassion and sympathy. We suffer with them and hope that through our prayers the Lord, who is a just Judge, will take them into his eternal Kingdom, because they have not deserved this.”

Burkina Faso is a country largely unknown to many Europeans and Americans. How would you describe the country generally?

I have to say that Burkina Faso is a country whose people are very peaceable, hard-working and very welcoming. Although at the same time it is a country of West Africa struggling against enormous challenges – poverty, lack of water and lack of infrastructure among the most visible ones. Looking at the UN statistics, it is one of the poorest countries in the world with an extremely low index of human development, which translates into low life expectancy and a low level of formal schooling.

62% of Burkina’s inhabitants are Muslims. You mentioned that there is generally a spirit of peaceful coexistence. However, you also spoke of the danger of radicalisation. Are there traces of Islamic radicalisation to be seen in the country, and is there a difference between the North and the West?

I would say that, rather than radicalisation, what is actually taking place is a slow process of Arabisation (which is a general tendency) among the younger generation. There are many opportunities offered by the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, above all to poor countries like Burkina, notably in the form of study or working scholarships. In a country in which approx.  60% of the population is Muslim, the influence of the Islamic countries is considerable. There are NGOs here from Qatar, Kuwait and other countries of the region which aim, as I have heard, to advance social development, but which together with their social help are exporting their own ideology and their own interpretation of the Koran. They are prepared to bore wells, build mosques and help the poor, but they focus their aid exclusively on Muslims. In the western part of Burkina there are more Christians, but in the North they are no more than around 1% of the population – although very much present in the field of healthcare and education, thanks to the various religious congregations which are working here, providing a service – for the whole of society, moreover – and not merely for the Christians.

In 2014 and 2015 the political and social life of Burkina Faso was marked by profound political turmoil. There were great tensions, following the overthrow of President Blaise Compaoré, who had ruled the country for 27 years, and leading up to the election of the new President Kaboré. Has the situation in the country finally stabilised?

At the very end of 2015 President Kaboré took up office, following a time of great turmoil. It is true that there are still many expectations on the part of the people, who went out onto the streets to demand changes in national policy – changes which are still unfulfilled – but for the moment we are no longer seeing demonstrations in the streets. I hope that democracy will put down roots in the life of the country, and in this respect I believe that Christians can make a positive contribution, based on the social teaching of the Church, which would be of great benefit to everyone. Of course we have to take account of the fact that the recent terrorist attack is likewise a destabilising factor for the political and economic life of the country.

In the country as a whole some 23% are Christians, and 19% are Catholics. How is the Catholic Church viewed in the country?

As I mentioned in passing, the Church is doing incredible work and it is quite obvious that it is on behalf of all the people. I have seen for myself how in the health centres they are caring for people of different faiths who are looking for a better quality of care and a more “human” attitude – something that many of the state healthcare centres cannot offer. But equally in the field of education the presence of the Church in many places is very important. Even in the north, where Catholics represent no more than 1%, the Church maintains important educational centres for young children, with a special care for the poorest and for girls.

Why for the girls?

Sadly, in this country there is still the practice of marrying girls at a very young age and of violence against women. Tackling this problem is a matter of education. For this reason in many places the Church is endeavouring to protect young girls by offering them the opportunity of studying in a boarding school situation. The Catholic Church in Burkina Faso is striving to draw the attention of society to the condition of women.

But in the north of the country Muslims make up almost a total majority. How was your encounter with the Catholic minority there in the north? What impressed you most about it?

The meetings we had with people in the diocese of Dori – on the frontier between Mali and Niger – were marvellous. What joy and faith in the middle of the desert! After the Sunday Mass in the cathedral we all danced – bishops and faithful alike – to thank God for the priestly vocations, which are on the rise. This is an area where we have been supporting them for years, in this new diocese where Catholics are a minority. What joy to know that this year they had four priestly ordinations! How active the faithful are! The Catholic population is very much dispersed throughout the territory and very often somewhat isolated from the rest of the country, but they have a powerful spirit of service and a desire to be of help to all society. The bishop is the president of the Union of Believers, an organisation which includes Muslims, animists and Christians and which seeks to carry out interfaith social development projects.

What was the most beautiful moment of the visit for you personally?

I experienced many powerfully emotional moments, but to name just one, in the diocese of Tenkodogo I was impressed to see the impact of the building of small chapels in the villages. We visited two communities where ACN has helped for the construction of their small village churches. It was beautiful. In the first one we attended Mass at 6 a.m. and there were nevertheless around 200 people there – of all ages. We witnessed the baptism of little Juliette, a baby six weeks old. In the other village we watched as around a hundred people were working in the field next to the church, which is still under construction. I asked the bishop what all those people were doing and he told me, “That is the catechist’s field; the people love their catechist so much that they are getting together to prepare his field for sowing.” They were digging the ground with spades and working away, singing with great joy. Afterwards, the village chief also came; although he is not a Catholic, he goes every day to see how work is going on the construction of the church, because “when the Church comes here, then development also comes for the people”. In both communities, before they got their little chapels, the people had to walk many miles on foot in order to take part in Holy Mass

What is ACN’s work in Burkina Faso? How are you supporting the Catholic Church in the country?

We in ACN share four great areas of concern with the Church in Burkina Faso – the family apostolate, the formation of formators, the life of prayer and contemplation and the support of the religious congregations. Let me explain: the family apostolate because, in a poor country like this one, what so many international organisations are attempting to do is to impose their own agenda, which is contrary to the culture of life. For us it is important to form families according to the mind of the Gospel – open to life, responsible for the education of their children and an environment where young people can learn the true meaning and context of sexuality.

At the same time the presence of the priests and religious among the people is a precious treasure, and for this reason we endeavour to help them to acquire a solid formation, so that they can carry out their ministry well. At the same time we cannot forget that in the midst of so much poverty it is also necessary to create spaces of prayer, or simply of spiritual repose, where the people and the missionaries can be given an opportunity to “recharge their spiritual batteries” for their day-to-day duties.

I must also add that we have met with great gratitude wherever we been – gratitude I want to pass on to all our benefactors. One rather touching incident was when the communities in Tenkodogo diocese made us a gift of ten chickens, as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to our benefactors. Sadly, I wasn’t able to bring them on the aeroplane, so that I don’t have them with me here in the office![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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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.