Without the courage of the Kurds it would have been much more difficult to defeat the jihadist group Islamic State. And without their generosity, it is likely that there would be hardly any Christians left in Iraq.. During his third day of visit in the Arab country, Pope Francis knew first-hand the reality of Iraqi Kurdistan, a region that in recent years has hosted some 250,000 Syrian refugees and more than half a million internally displaced Iraqis, some 140,000 of them Christians who escaped the barbarism that IS unleashed in cities such as Mosul and Qaraqosh, visited this Sunday by Francisco.
The family of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose lifeless body was found in September 2015, was also fleeing the jihadists. on a beach in Turkey when he drowned with his brother and mother when they tried to reach Europe. The image of the little corpse in the sand went around the world. After concluding the mass he presided over at the Erbil stadium, the Pope met with little Alan’s father, Abdullah Kurdi, who told him with the help of an interpreter how he lost his family. He also thanked him for the closeness he shows to all the people who, like him, are forced to leave their land in search of a peaceful place.
Upon his arrival in the midst of great security measures at the Erbil airport, which suffered an attack three weeks ago in which at least one person lost his life, The Pope thanked the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, for welcoming refugees and internally displaced persons. «The enemy came to destroy this country but you opened your arms to Christians and other groups. The war caused destruction, but you defeated the enemy and rebuilt the country, ”Francisco told Barzani and other Kurdish leaders at the airport, according to local media.
The president of this autonomous region located in northern Iraq stressed, for his part, how Christians are “a fundamental and inseparable part” of Kurdistan. He also took the opportunity to remember the «peshmerga heroes» (Kurdish fighters) and «all those who have made a extreme sacrifice to defend peace and freedom for all Iraqis».
At the ‘Franso Hariri’ stadium in Erbil, Jorge Mario Bergoglio presided over the most massive event of his trip, a mass attended by about 10,000 people. The restrictions to avoid contagion forced the capacity of this sports facility to be reduced to a third.
In his greeting at the end of the Eucharist, the last act before returning to Rome this Monday, Francis recalled that these days in Iraq he heard “voices of pain and anguish, but also of hope and comfort”. This in his opinion is partly due to “the institutions of each religious confession, thanks to their local Churches and the various charitable organizations, which assist the people of this country in the work of reconstruction and social recovery.”
Iraq will remain “always with me, in my heart,” he said.l Pontiff, asking the inhabitants of the Arab country to work together “for a future of peace and prosperity that does not discriminate or leave anyone behind”. In his homily he remembered all those who “bear the wounds of war and violence, visible and invisible wounds”, as well as the destruction in communities due to “injustice, division and hatred.” He also celebrated that “the Church of Iraq is alive”, as demonstrated by the “concrete help and solidarity to those who suffer”, offered in a situation of “great poverty and difficulty.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.