Image courtesy: Vatican Media via Reuters
On a historic visit to Iraq, including regions that were once occupied by Islamic State (IS) militants, Pope Francis said, “Fraternity is more durable than fratricide, hope is more powerful than hatred, peace more powerful than war.”
“… we say no to terrorism and the manipulation of religion.”
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) March 7, 2021
Addressing the global scourge of terrorists using “god” or “religion” to justify hate crime, the Pope added that fraternity and hope “can never be silenced by the blood spilled by those who pervert the name of God to pursue paths of destruction.”
The Pope has been on an Apostolic Journey to Iraq, that concludes today, March 8.
According to reports in the BBC, Pope Francis visited parts of northern Iraq that were held by Islamic State (IS) militants, and he prayed at the ruined churches in Mosul, the former IS stronghold. The IS had unleashed horrific violence in the area in 2014. This is the first ever papal visit to the country and the Pope’s first international trip since the Covid-19 Pandemic put the world in lockdown mode.
On Sunday, the Pope was in Mosul’s Church Square, now in ruins, where he prayed “for the victims of the war with the Islamic State group, which left thousands of civilians dead”, reported the BBC. The Pope said the exodus of Christians from Iraq and the broader Middle East had done “incalculable harm not just to the individuals and communities concerned but also to the society they leave behind”.
According to Vatican news, at the end of Mass celebrated in Iraq’s northern city of Erbil, Pope Francis met Abdullah Kurdi, whose three-year-old son Alan, drowned with his brother and mother off the Turkish coast in September 2015 while trying to reach Europe. The image of the child’s lifeless body lying on a beach had shaken the world. The child became a symbol of the tragedy of migrations forced upon innocent citizens caught in the terror plots.
A statement released by the Holy See Press Office on Sunday revealed that the Pope was “able to listen to the father’s pain for the loss of his family and express his and the Lord’s deep participation in the man’s suffering,” via a translator. The report added that Kurdi expressed his gratitude to the Pope for his words of closeness to his tragedy and “to that of all those migrants who seek understanding, peace and security when they leave their countries at the risk of their lives”.
Pope Francis also met the President and Prime Minister of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan and offered a “Prayer of Suffrage for the victims of the war in Hosh-al-Bieaa”.
The Pope said, “The tragic diminution of Jesus’ disciples here and across the Middle East does incalculable harm not just to the individuals and communities concerned but also to the society they leave behind. Indeed such a richly diverse cultural and religious fabric as this is weakened by the loss of any of its members, however small. As in one of your intricately designed carpets, one small thread torn away can damage the rest.”
He added, “Today all of us raise our voices in prayer to Almighty God for all the victims of war and armed conflict. Here in Mosul, the tragic consequences of war and hostility are all too evident. How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed and many thousands of people – Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, who were cruelly eliminated by terrorism, and others – forcibly displaced or killed!”
As he prayed, he shared his thoughts, “If God is the God of life – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to kill our brothers and sisters in his Name. If God is the God of peace – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to wage war in his Name. If God is the God of love – for so he is – then it is wrong for us to hate our brothers and sisters.”
However, the historic visit, that sends a strong message of peace and denounces religion-based terrorism, may not have been widely broadcast in the region itself. Media watcher Laith Marouf, shared over social media how it was telling that the Pope’s visit “is getting almost zero attention from Imperialist media globally and regionally; while the media of the Axis of Resistance are covering it wall to wall.”
It is really telling how the visit of the Pope of Catholicism to Iraq, is getting zero attention from Imperialist media globally and regionally; while the media of the Axis of Resistance are covering it wall to wall. Here are a few things to consider on why. 1/
— Laith لَيث (@LaithMarouf) March 7, 2021
According to his observations, “Even the main Christian satellite stations in the Arabic world, mainly funded by the CIA, are covering only his sermons & avoiding his political messages.”