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Caritas knows no boundaries of race, religion, or ethnicity enabling it to work in places such as Gaza. Credits: Katie Orlinsky/Caritas

Caritas knows no boundaries of race, religion, or ethnicity enabling it to work in places such as Gaza. Credits: Katie Orlinsky/Caritas

Saad Edwar Sa’ati was killed along with nearly 60 other Iraqis because of his religion. Saad was a Christian, and a Caritas Iraq volunteer, murdered when a group of armed men attacked the Church of Saydat Al-Najat in Baghdad during Sunday Mass on 31 October. As a volunteer, Saad shopped for the elderly, took disabled children on days out and dressed up as Father Christmas to hand out gifts. He supported five other family members in his home, which was destroyed in a bomb attack ten days after his murder.

The attack during Mass was the worst single incident directed at Iraq’s diverse Christian minorities, but not the only one by far. Homemade bombs were left in the yards of Christian houses in Baghdad during the Christmas period and thousands of families fled the second city of Mosul, the Nineveh of the Bible, after killings there.

The Executive Director of Caritas Iraq, Nabil Nissan, also highlighted the kidnapping of priests and the sexual assault of Christian girls. “It is intended to drive us all out”, he said. The Pope added his call for Christians to be protected in Iraq, where the Christian community dates back 2,000 years.

Recognising the need for a way for ward in peace and reconciliation, the first synod specifically dedicated to the Middle East was convened in October. Representatives from Caritas Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon and Joseph Farah, the President of Caritas Middle East and North Africa (MONA) took part. Caritas Internationalis supported the synod’s work in seeking to unify Catholic and other dispersed, minority Christian communities in the Middle East.

Pope Benedict XVI closed the synod with the message, “Peace is possible. Peace is urgent.” The message was especially prescient as the blockade of Gaza entered its second year, and when in May a humanitarian flotilla carr ying relief for Palestinians in Gaza who live below the poverty line, was attacked by Israeli troops. Ten people were killed and more than 30 injured. Caritas joined other faith-based organisations in condemning the attack and calling for an end to the blockade.

“ The Gaza siege needs to be lifted – no people should have to undergo this,” said His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and President of Caritas Jerusalem. “ We cannot move freely to go to work, to the hospital or church like ever ybody else. That is no life.”