Hassan Hamid Al-Baldawi : Muslim and Christian residents of the Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday told Pope Francis of their suffering under the brutal rule of the Islamic State "ISIS". The Pope blessed their determination to rise from the ashes and told them that "Brotherhood is stronger than killing brothers."
As part of his historic visit to Iraq , Pope Francis arrived in Mosul by helicopter with the aim of urging healing sectarian wounds and prayers for those who lost their lives of all religions.
The 84-year-old Pope walked past the ruins of dilapidated homes and churches to a square that was once the beating heart of the old city there. The Islamic State group occupied Mosul, northern Iraq, between 2014 and 2017.
"Together, we say no to extremism," Archbishop Najeeb Michael, Archbishop of the Diocese of Mosul and Aqrah, told the Pope. Neither sectarianism ... nor corruption. The Pope sat on a white chair surrounded by ruins of buildings and a dilapidated staircase.
The old city of Mosul included ancient churches and ancient mosques that were destroyed by fierce battles launched by Iraqi forces and the international coalition forces to expel ISIS.
Corruption and disputes among Iraqi politicians have slowed efforts to rebuild Mosul, and large parts of the city remain in ruins.
The Pope, seemingly touched by the scale of the devastation surrounding him, prayed for all of those who lost their lives in Mosul.
"It is extremely cruel that this country, the cradle of civilizations, has been exposed to such an inhuman storm that destroyed ancient places of worship, and thousands of thousands of people, Muslims, Christians, Yazidis and others, were forcibly displaced or killed," he said.
The Pope added, “Today, despite everything, we reaffirm our conviction that brotherhood is stronger than killing brothers, that hope is stronger than death, and that peace is stronger than war. This conviction is pronounced more eloquently than the sound of hatred and violence. He cannot be suffocated in the midst of the blood that was caused by those who distort the name of God and walk in the paths of destruction, ”apparently in direct reference to the Islamic State.
Then he recited a prayer during which he repeated the focus on one of the most important goals of his visit, which is the first papal visit to Iraq, which is that it is always wrong to hate, kill, or wage war in the name of God.
Militants from the Islamic State "ISIS", which tried to establish a caliphate across the region, swept through northern Iraq between 2014 and 2017, killing Christians as well as Muslims who opposed their approach.
Afraid to return
The Iraqi Christian community, which is among the oldest in the world, has suffered in particular from years of conflict, and its number has become about 300,000, down from about 1.5 million before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the brutal violence that followed by Islamic extremists.
Father Raed Adel Kloo, the official in the Mosul churches for the Syriac Catholics and the pastor of the Church of the Annunciation, which was destroyed in Mosul, narrated how he was displaced in 2014 with about 500 Christian families, while there are now fewer than 70 families left.
He said, "I left the city in ... 2014 with a parish made up of about 500 Christian families, most of whom immigrated outside the country, and the rest of the rest are afraid of returning. Those who live in the city today are not more than seventy families."
He continued, "But today I live with two million Muslims calling me our father Raed. I live my message with them and I work with the Mosul Families and Families Council to promote the message of peaceful coexistence."
The Pope, surrounded by intense security measures during his visit to Iraq, stressed the importance of religious tolerance.
On Saturday, Pope Francis held a historic meeting with the supreme religious authority of Shiites in Iraq, Ali al-Sistani, visited the birthplace of the Prophet Ibrahim and condemned acts of violence in the name of religion, which he described as "the greatest abuse and blasphemy.