Two years after fleeing Qaraqosh and the Nineveh Plain, three young men were ordained to the priesthood. The rite celebrated in a refugee camp before 1,500 worshipers. Fr. Momika: "A day of mourning transformed into a celebration." The task of the anointed is "to give Christ to the people" and instill "strength, confidence and courage".
Erbil (AsiaNews) - Two years after the expulsion of thousands of Christian families from Qaraqosh, the center of the Nineveh Plain in northern Iraq, three young men from the city have been ordained to the priesthood in a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan . The ceremony took place in recent days and has been a source of joy and hope for the persecuted Christians, victims of violence and marginalization.
At least 1,500 people - in spite of the places for only 800 - filled every corner of the church, to share the feast day of the Syrian Catholic community and its three new priests: Fr. Roni Salim Momika, Fr Emad and Fr. Petros.
"We fled from Qaraqosh two years ago, at this time," says Fr. Momika in an interview with Catholic News Agency (NSC). He does not hide the challenges, difficulties and many sorrows suffered by the Christian community in this period so troubled in its history.
The ordination of three new priests of the Syrian Catholic Church took place on August 5 in a prefabricated church located in the refugee camp Aishty 2, on the outskirts of Erbil. It is home to about 5,500 people who fled in the summer of 2014, as a result of the advance of the militias of the Islamic State (IS).
Archbishop Petros Yohanno Moshe, head of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Mosul, Kirkuk and Iraqi Kurdistan presided.
Before the rise of the jihadists, Qaraqosh was the most important Christian center of the country; inside and in the surrounding towns scattered on the Nineveh Plain lived about a quarter of Iraq's Christian population.
"Until now, this day was linked to bad memories, because [in the night between August 5 and 6, 2014] we became refugees and IS made its entry in Qaraqosh". Today, however, has been transformed from a day of mourning and "given new hope to all our people”.
Over the past two years Fr. Momika worked alongside young people and women in the refugee camp, where he hopes to continue in the future - as a priest. He wants to "stand alongside the refugees", to share their joys, sufferings and difficulties. His role, he explains, is to "give Christ to the people" and instill "strength, confidence and courage".
In the past the same Fr. Momika, along with his sister, had been the victim of an attack. In 2010, a bomb exploded during the passage of a bus carrying the future priest and other young Christians, all university students, from the Nineveh Plain to the University of Mosul.
Because of the forced closure of the Qaraqosh seminary after the jihadist advance, he moved to the Al-Sharfa, in Lebanon, where he was able to complete his studies. He then returned to Iraq for his ordination to the diaconate, on March 19 last. Shared from AsiaNewsIT