Iraqi Christians are trying to face challenges with strength and hope as they continue to rebuild their lives after the Islamic State invaded in 2014, a Chaldean Catholic priest has said.
“It’s a difficult place, but we are living with hope, with faith, with love for everyone, even if they have done a lot of bad things,” Fr. Karam Shamasha told CNA via video call last week.
“As Christians, we try to not meet evil with evil. We try to calm things and to be really these seeds of life, seeds of peace, seeds of happiness, of serenity,” he added.
Shamasha is one of two priests serving at St. George Chaldean Catholic Church in Telskuf, a Christian village about 20 miles north of Mosul. Shamasha returned to Telskuf, his hometown, in August after six years studying in Rome.
The priest said that today there are around 900 families living in his village, most of whom returned in 2017, after the Islamic State lost control of Mosul. But many did not return, including his own family members. And around 200 of the families now in Telskuf are from neighboring villages.
In the past three years, the situation has been relatively stable and the houses in the village have mostly been rebuilt, he said. But many other challenges remain.
In addition to facing devastating economic problems, Iraqi people have been hurt emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually by the conflict, Shamasha said. “Unfortunately after ISIS everything has changed.”
“We are trying to heal this wound created by ISIS. Our families are strong; they have defended the faith. But they need someone who says, ‘You have done very well, but you must continue your mission.’”
He said: “It is not easy to return to how it was before… However, at least, today, we have again resumed Masses, youth activities.”
So far the area has not been gravely affected by COVID-19, with most cases of the virus consisting of mild symptoms only, he said, explaining that the parish has more activities planned once the situation improves.
In the meantime, the sacramental life of his parish, St. George’s continues: Shamasha noted that 15 couples married at the church last month and baptisms take place every Friday. On Nov. 13, 65 children received their First Holy Communion.
Shamasha said it is the mission of his church to heal families spiritually, so he and the pastor visited the family of each first communicant individually, congratulating them and praying with them in their homes. And “to say that the church is close to them.”
The Church is where people turn in their need, the priest said, noting that his parish did its best to support people in many different ways, including financially, medically, and with rebuilding.
“We are happy to be able to offer this possibility to our families. With all the difficulties, however, at least we are saying to everyone that the Church will not abandon … its mission as Mother,” he commented.