Caritas Internationalis is with the Holy Father on this pilgrimage to Iraq, a crucial moment of expressing solidarity with Christians in the country and in the Middle East. It is moment to call for dialogue and reconciliation in a country recovering from decades of war.
The confederation unites with the Pope on this visit which will be “a strong sign of hope to Christian and Muslim alike”.
The director of Caritas Iraq, Nabil Nissan, directs this message to Pope Francis, “Our strength is inspired by our faith and hope and your visit will strengthen these things and will enable us to bear our cross.
“We are sure that you will not leave us alone and you inspire us to be present wherever there is pain and suffering. We are awaiting your arrival to receive your blessings.”
Since 1992, Caritas Iraq has been at the forefront, serving, defending and accompanying the poorest and the vulnerable both Muslims and Christians without any distinction, and thus building bridges between the different communities in a country heavily plagued by sectarian divisions.
Currently Caritas is serving more than 5000 families per month and works in neglected areas such as in Fallujah and Mosul. Caritas has served almost 390,000 people in Iraq since ISIS started attacking communities in 2014.
“Pope Francis’ visit an important moment at this time of Lent. It is sign of hope for Christians, it is a message of peace and reconciliation to the different communities to build bridges with other faiths and within communities,” says Aloysius John, Caritas Internationalis secretary general.
“Caritas Iraq sows hope and the seeds for reconciliation through its presence and actions in Iraqi communities and it reminds us that unity will only prevail when human rights are respected and dignity is upheld.”
At these dark moments of the history of Iraq, the mission of Caritas Iraq is to gives hope through expression of solidarity to the Christian communities, and other religious minorities, who are severely deprived of their needs and who have left the country in large numbers over the last 20 years due to severe discrimination and violence, such as that perpetrated by the Islamic State.
Beyond material help, Caritas Iraq’s support to Christian communities is important to restore their self-confidence, recognise them as citizens on equal terms with other Iraqis, demonstrate the presence of the Church to the most vulnerable communities, give an opportunity to Christians to live out their faith through their work in Caritas.
Working in four major governorates in Iraq (Baghdad Capital, Anbar, Mosul, Duhok), supported by over 270 staff and about 200 volunteers, Caritas offers a message of dialogue between communities.
Programmes in Iraq include peace and reconciliation, livelihoods – to offer a chance to rebuild the lives of those who have been brought to their knees by war, violence and the economic crisis – shelter, education, psychological support, health, protection from COVID-19 and programmes to promote an active role of women and young people. Caritas Iraq is supported by different members of the confederation.