An atmosphere of elation has overwhelmed the suffering Christian Iraqis. Merriment overshadowed Iraq with the news spreading about the intention of the successor of St. Peter, the man of peace and fraternity, His Holiness Pope Francis to visit Iraq in early March 2021.
The reports about the news relevant to this visit, which is a sign of hope and proximity, has been widely echoed by all news agencies, websites, and social media networking sites in its capacity as one of the most important pieces of news in 2020. This piece of news reverberated in every nook and cranny in the world with analysts writing analytical reports in various languages of the world on this upcoming august event and guessing its immediate and far-reaching outcome.
Over the past years, the Christian Iraqis went through a period of hardships which have been very acute, depressing, and ineffably disastrous. They lost everything foremost of which are their homes and mostly their future. They have been like the sheep that went astray looking for their shepherd who would protect them and show them the way to safety. They gave up everything but kept their faith in their hearts and looked for the grand shepherd who would take them by the hand, embrace them, and lead them to the roads leading to safety. Their only trustworthy shepherd is Lord Jesus Christ who said," I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11)
Now the successor of St. Peter, namely Pope Francis, is taking "a divine trip" designed to help the helpless and tangibly reveal Lord Jesus' care for "His sheep" so as to help extricate them from the imbroglio in which they are embroiled. The visit is viewed as an act of support and encouragement for the country’s Christians, who have suffered immense persecution in recent years. It, furthermore, serves as a message for the Christians, who left the country of their forefathers, urging them to return home, and help restore a bright future for the children of Iraq.
The ulterior motive of the Pope's upcoming visit is to express support and to rekindle hopes for a better future. It comes at a time when the people are facing major challenges represented in the pandemic as well as the political and economic situations.
With hopes pinned on the visit that it will encourage Christians to stay despite present difficulties, a report published in 2019 found that since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Christian population had fallen from 1.5 million people to less than 120,000 whereas without massive and urgent interventions, Christianity could disappear from Iraq within five years.
The current situation of Christian Iraqis is quite depressing, so the visit of the Pope is a very courageous decision that comes in the nick of time.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi has recently been quoted by the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA) as saying that with the defeat of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq, Christian Iraqi immigrants, 'the original children of the country' should return home. He added, "We are glad that Christians will return to Iraq and contribute to its reconstruction. Iraqis of all sects are yearning for a new Iraq that believes in peace and rejects violence."
This statement made by Iraqi prime minister serves as a good omen as it expresses willingness to provide all possible help to facilitate the return of the largest number of Christian Iraqis who fled the country and want to return to Iraq.
A glaring stand that propagates optimism is Pope Francis' recent video message for the online meeting organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development which aimed at coordinating humanitarian aid and development for the suffering populations in Syria and Iraq.
In his address, Pope Francis said to the participants, “Every effort—be it small or great—carried out to promote the path of peace, is like adding a brick to the structure of a just society, which is open and welcoming, and where everyone can find a place to dwell in peace.”
This visit will be a source of joy, of encouragement, of happiness, and of believing in divine providence because it is the concrete presence of the one who brings peace in the name of the Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus Christ.
With Pope Francis' upcoming visit to Iraq which will restore peace to the ailing country, we remember Lord Jesus Christ's words, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."
Lord Jesus, help Pope Francis attain a successful divine trip to Iraq; help him restore peace and proximity to the ailing society; as well as give him the power to have a safe trip that fulfills your divine message for the attainment of peace and proximity in Iraq. Lord Jesus, save Iraq and the Iraqis from wars, violence, persecution and all forms of social diseases so that they can emerge out of these crises healthier and stronger. Amen