Papal envoy: We must see humanity of each Iraqi refugee

Refugees who have fled from ISIS and arrived in Ankawa, in the northern part of Erbil, Iraq. Credit: www.ankawa.com.

The international community must view suffering Iraqi refugees not as a collective group, but as individual persons, each with his or her own story and needs, the Pope’s envoy to the country encouraged.

“We should set our sight on every child, every person. When you look at them, sitting on the ground, you don’t think them as a crowd. You think about them as single persons, about each individual story,” Cardinal Fernando Filoni told CNA Aug. 22.

Earlier this month, Pope Francis selected Cardinal Filoni as his personal envoy to Iraq. In addition to his role as the current prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the cardinal served as Papal nuncio to Iraq from 2001 to 2006.

Cardinal Filoni reported to Pope Francis in a private meeting Aug. 20, upon returning from a week-long trip to Iraq, where he had several meetings with the local authorities and spent much time with refugees, learning about the effort of the local Church to help the internally displaced persons.

“According to data I have been given, at the moment in Iraq there are 1.2 million internally displaced persons,” he said, explaining that this includes Christians, yazidis, Muslims and Chaldeans.  

The Papal envoy commented that there had been “a very strong intolerance, and very often minorities are at risk for discrimination in certain areas.”

The situation grew drastically worse, however, with the advance of the Islamic State army, which suddenly headed north, seizing Mosul and the Nineveh plain and pushing Christian and minorities out of their homes with violence and threats.

“I reported to Pope Francis on the precariousness of these people, who have mostly fled without anything,” Cardinal Filoni said.

He explained that he was deeply touched by the plight of the people – suffering individuals, each with their own story. In particular, he was struck by the suffering children, elderly and yazidi minorities.

The cardinal described seeing “women crouched in a corner, without their husbands,” as well as grown men “crying like children because they do not see any future for their people.”

In addition, the Papal envoy was astonished at “seeing benumbed elderly, sitting down not doing anything in the heat.”

“When one is uprooted from his village, where he had his life, his friendships, and is just sitting there, what does he expect? Only death. This is dramatic.”

Cardinal Filoni also stressed the difficult situation of the children who have been uprooted from their homes. He voiced gratitude for those who are sacrificing to make the best of the traumatic circumstances.

“There are volunteers, groups of young people who take care of children, invent games, teach them songs… they are small, pleasant things,” he said.

Among the refugees, there are also newborn babies, born into uncertainty in a time of trauma.

“A child was born two days before my arrival,” the cardinal recalled. “His mom, with her husband and the other child, where there, doing their best to set up their little corner. They lost everything, they lack everything. Their only treasure is this child, who is born and thank God is there.”
 


Voices

Easter and beyond

Anne Hansen

We move quickly from our major religious holidays each year. It’s not intentional. Life hurries along and as soon as the sun sets on one holiday the next is being touted by merchants looking to sell us whatever the next big day brings. To remain in the spirit of the religious holiday — in this case Easter — takes deliberate intention.

The Holy Father visits the Holy Land

Events

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April 25, 2015

  • Saturday, April 25

    Super Groovy 5K Run/Walk, 8 a.m., Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Ave, Van Nuys. Sponsored by St. Euphrasia School, this year’s “Super Groovy” theme celebrates the school’s 50th anniversary of its founding in 1964 and serves as a tribute to that nostalgic era of peace and love — the 60’s. At the finish line, all runners and walkers will be puffed with clouds of psychodelic color. Registration $25-$40. For more information, contact Susie Sempelsz, (818) 488-1598. info@knights5k.org.

    5th Annual Car Show, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Junipero Serra High School, 14830 S Van Ness Ave., Gardena. Featuring classics, hot rods, and muscle cars as well as food, music, vendors and raffles. (310) 324-6675. la-serrahs.org.

    Challenge Weekend for Men, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and April 26, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Povorello Retreat House, 1519 Woodworth St., San Fernando. Presented by St. John Eudes and Our Lady of Grace Men’s Fellowships. Men will not board overnight; lunch is provided both days. $90 or donation. Register at knowingweekend.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Fred Perez, (818) 749-5126.

    First Annual Sacred Heart High School Gala, 5 p.m., Los Angeles City College New Student Activities Center, 855 N Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. Proceeds from the event, themed “United to Empower,” will benefit the Comet Scholarship Fund.



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