(Vatican Radio) “They did not accept [the offer from Islamic State militants] to convert to Islam – this would have saved their lives immediately – so, they are giving us great testimony of faith.” These were just some of the words of praise that the Apostolic Nuncio to Iraq, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, had for the living Gospel witness of suffering and persecuted Iraqi Christians, when he spoke with Vatican Radio at the weekend.
Click below to hear Archbishop Lingua's extended remarks
Archbishop Lingua spoke of the grueling trial that the fleeing Christians face: one stretch of the journey took refugees – many of them small children – on foot across sixty kilometres of scorching desert at the height of summer, from Quaraqosh to Erbil. “You can see these kids sleeping on the streets,” he said, adding, “[there is so much] suffering.”
Archbishop Lingua also addressed the question of renewed US military involvement in the country. “Now the American aviation has begun to [strike Islamic State positions and military assets]: this is something that had to be done, otherwise [the IS] could not [be] stopped,” he said. “But,” he continued, “we should wonder why we have arrived at this point: was it not a lack of intelligence? Were we not able to understand what was going on? And then: who gave to these [IS fighters] such sophisticated weapons?”
Pope Francis on Sunday renewed his appeal for Iraq's Christians. In remarks following the Sunday Angelus prayer, and three times on Twitter (@pontifex), the Holy Father asked individuals, families, and broader communities to remember the suffering in prayer and to make concrete contributions in solidarity.