The Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad Raphael Louis Sako calls on Iraqi Christians to fast on Christmas Eve in order to implore the Lord for the return of refugees in Mosul and the Nineveh plains.
At the same time, he asks the faithful not to organise "any worldly celebration" for Christmas and New Year as "a sign of solidarity with their displaced brothers and sisters, who are going through indescribable suffering."
Speaking about his recent visits to "refugee camps in Ankawa and Alqosh as well as the villages of Amadiya and Aqra," the Chaldean patriarch noted that in such places, "I met the priests in Zakho, and I experienced how heavy and painful their cross is."
The locations mentioned are in Kurdistan, where more than 120,000 Christians have found refuge after they fled Mosul and the Nineveh plains fearing for their life, hunted and hounded by the Islamic Army. In his message of best wishes for the upcoming Christmas, the prelate suggests to all Christians to live Advent "by fasting, prayer, reflection and charity."
For this reason, he urges them to fast from Monday 22 December until night on 24 December, not touching food or drink until noon, as "in the days of Ba'utha". The Fast of Ba'utha commemorates what the prophet Jonah brought to the people of Nineveh for their conversion.
"We fast," the Patriarch said, "for the liberation of Mosul and the villages of the Nineveh plains, so that peace and security will return to these areas, and everyone will be able to return to his or her home, job and school."
Indeed, "Let us remember what Christ said,
'But this kind (the demon) does not come out except by prayer and fasting' (Mt, 17:21). We are certain that the birth of Christ, who shared our personal history and that of humanity, will listen to our prayers and will accept our fasting and realise our hope and desire to return to our homes and live our lives as normal as before."
In view of this, Mar Sako urges "all Christians not to organise any kind of worldly celebration at Christmas or New Year, given such bitter circumstances, as a sign of solidarity with their displaced brothers and sisters who are going through indescribable suffering."
Wishing you a Merry Christmas "in our hearts and in our refugee camps," the patriarch calls for "fasting and giving a hand to the needy, visiting them and consoling them."
by Joseph Mahmoud