Despite the prolonged persecution of Christians in the Middle-East, Catholic Patriarchs from the Middle-East urged Christians to pray with devotion to Christmas to find hope from God. They also called on Christians all over the world to remember the Middle-East Christians this Christmas.
“In Iraq, we will celebrate the birth of Christ who comes into our hearts in silence and tears,” said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad. However, he said, “We remain sustained by (an) inner peace that perpetuates the joy of faith and hope that we will, despite the trials, work toward a fairer country and a better future.”
“This year, Iraqi Christians will celebrate Christmas in deplorable conditions,” he continued, citing “the pitiable situation at all levels in our country” and “what they experienced as Christians, victims of segregation and exclusion.”
ISIS still occupies Mosul and the cities of the Ninevah Plain, the patriarch said.
“No one, except those who have planned this religious purification, could have imagined such a catastrophe,” Patriarch Sako said. He noted that since the summer of 2014, many Christians have been compelled to live in camps, and are being catered for by the church.
“It is as if the fundamental rights and freedoms did not pertain to us,” he said. “All this deprives us of the joy of the holiday.On this occasion (Christmas) we want to repeat quite frankly: We do not give in to injustice. On the contrary, we will remain committed to our land, our patriotism, and we will continue to live our love for our fellow citizens, simply because they are our brothers,” Patriarch Sako said. “We want peace for Iraq.”
His Beatitude, Ignace Joseph III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch of the Syriac Catholics said that, for Christmas, “our present world urgently needs any glimmer of hope” for people who are “persecuted, displaced and uprooted forcefully from the land of their fathers and grandfathers.”
“We are the shepherds of this persecuted people, we stand today in front of a historic crossroad in the journey of our people,” he said. Displaced people forced to migrate become, like Jesus, homeless, he added.He also pleaded to the international community “to stop fuelling the internal fighting in Syria.”
“Today more than ever, the world needs … joy,” Patriarch Laham wrote from his residence in Raboueh, Lebanon. He said, “The Arab world — our churches, communities, patriarchs, archbishops, priests, deacons, monks, nuns, faithful sons and daughters of our parishes, fellow-citizens and the whole world — all need this joy heralded by the Christmas angel, ‘I bring you glad tidings of great joy!”
Patriarch Laham said there was “no sign on the horizon of any sign of joy and relief, no end to this dark tunnel, this bloody Way of the Cross which our Middle East, especially Syria, has been treading for the last five years.”
“God loves you! Repeat over and over again, ‘God loves me!’” Patriarch Laham told the faithful, adding, “And allow happiness to enter into your heart” he added.