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Iraqi Assyrians Denounce ISIS Transgr...
Erbil
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
23 Feb 2015

Opinions of Assyrians in Erbil, Iraq about the abduction of 150 Assyrians in Syria and the destruction of historical artifacts in Mosul.

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Iraqi Christians Start from Scratch i...
Lyon
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Dec 2014

“Why does nobody care about Iraqi Christians?"
 
“We lost everything in Iraq: our house and everything that was inside it, everything!” laments the Iraqi priest, Muhannad Altawil, who now lives in France. He is driving to meet Sliwa and Siba and their three children, who have just taken refuge in their brother’s house in a suburb on the outskirts of Lyon. He remembers the day in 2008 when his family was told to leave their homes and everything in them behind. “This house belongs to us now,” their perpetrators said. Without taking his eyes off the road for a moment, Altawil says that is why his entire family fled. The rosary beads dangling from the rear-view mirror dance as he turns the bend.
 
Faced with the brutality and indifference that Christians in Iraq were suffering, Father Altawil tells us, the dioceses of Lyon and Mosul decided to partner up in 2014. A charity dinner in honor of the refugees was held just before Christmas in Lyon. On 8 December 8, to commemorate the traditional Festival of Lights of Lyon, thousands of lamps and candles were sent to Baghdad and Erbil where dozens of people celebrated a procession that included the Cardinal of Lyon, Philippe Barbarin. The latter then celebrated mass at the Church of Saint Joseph in the Erbil neighborhood of Ankawa.
 
Altawil is a Chaldean Christian priest from Baghdad. He explains that after completing his military service in 1999, he traveled to France “to learn French and to realize my religious calling.” After a year in Rennes, in the west of France, he decided to become a priest. Since 2000, he has been a Dominican monk and since 2008, a priest. Nonetheless, he returns to Iraq every year to visit the Dominican community. He says he also returned last year, this time returning to his old neighborhood. “I could not go directly to the main door of my house because it was quite dangerous; because everyone knows everyone, and they know I'm a Christian and now – and a priest,” he explains. He tried to access his house from the back. “Then I saw the family that is now living in my house and using everything: our car, even wearing our clothes.”
 
Father Muhannad stops his car in a parking lot in front of an array of concrete buildings, an urban landscape that is vastly different to the picturesque houses that line downtown Lyon along the Saone River.
 
Were it not for the Christmas lights adorning several balconies, the night would subsume everything. We are now is Vaulx-en-Velin, the neighborhood where France’ first banlieusard riots began in 1979. Most of the residents are immigrants or children of immigrants, though some are already the grandchildren of those who came to France two generations ago.
 
The entire family lives in the living room of a single house: the husband and wife, their two children (the eldest is currently on duty as a taxi-driver) and their new guests: Sliwa and Siba, the parents, and their three children, Lord, 7, Fadi, 6, and Malik, 3. It does not take a lot of imagination to guess their spiritual leanings: every corner of the room is overflowing with religious symbols of one sort or another. On one wall is a large manger with a ceramic angel that will not stop dangling from a cork roof, though the aunt insists on propping it up. Next to it is a tree with bows and white balls and, in a corner next to the main table, a golden Virgin Mary. They have prepared sweet Iraqi tea. Mr. Sliwa explains that in Iraq, “it was impossible to find a Christmas tree anywhere in the street. It's beautiful here how malls and everything else is decorated.”
 
The youngest daughter, Malik, has huge eyes and only leaves her mother's arms to take another piece of cake, for which her mother tells her off discreetly. The little girl seems oblivious to the adults’ conversation, even though her parents lower their voice and look at her askance when discussing just how the children are bearing the changes: a different house, a different country, different food, a new life amongst uncles and cousins. In Arabic, her name means “angel.”
 
They arrived in Lyon from Erbil just before Christmas. The father Mr. Sliwa reiterates that they have been very busy adapting to everything new. Nonetheless, it makes him “very angry” that nobody seems to care about their situation. “Why doesn’t anybody care about Iraqi Christians?" he demands indignantly. Our conversation took place a day after the December 2014 kidnapping of 40 hostages in a Sydney café in which three people died. “Look at the newspapers and television, how many people have died in Iraq and how many in Australia? And who ever speaks up on our behalf?” he exclaims.
 
One of various minorities scattered throughout the country, the Christian community in Iraq is one of the oldest in the world. In 2003, before the US invasion, there were more than a million Christians in Iraq, representing about 5% of the population. Today it is estimated there are less than half a million.
 
Muhannad Altawil says, “the problem is that, after the US invasion, all the terrorists came to us to seek revenge against the American army in Iraq.” Moreover, he insists, “Islamic terrorists think that all Europeans and Americans are the same.” The proclamation of the so-called ISIS in June 2014 triggered a new flight out of the country. The Lyon-Mosul organization of the Catholic Church in Lyon estimates that 400,000 Iraqi members of minorities took refugee in the Kurdish province of Iraq, including some 150,000 Christians.
 
In September, French President François Hollande traveled to Baghdad to support the new Iraqi government. There he said: “I want relations between France and Iraq to acquire a new dimension.” Visiting refugees in Erbil, he said, “Our duty is for you to be able to return to your homes.”
 
“The hardest part,” says Mr. Sliwa, “is starting from zero, finding a job without speaking the language.” Not to mention all the paperwork necessary for making administrative arrangements to get residency, Father Altawil adds. Whatever their struggles, Mrs Siba says pensively, “we are lucky.”
 

SPANISH VERSION AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

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Iraqi refugees France 01
Lyon, France
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Dec 2014

Escaping ISIS, a Christian family from Iraq begins a new life in France.

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Iraqi refugees France 02
Lyon, France
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Dec 2014

Escaping ISIS, a Christian family from Iraq begins a new life in France.

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Iraqi refugees France 03
Lyon, France
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Dec 2014

Escaping ISIS, a Christian family from Iraq begins a new life in France.

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Iraqi refugees France 04
Lyon, France
By Lola García-Ajofrín
16 Dec 2014

Escaping ISIS, a Christian family from Iraq begins a new life in France.

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Iraqi Christians Flee from Mosul
By Arshed
24 Jul 2014

23 July 2014
Iraq, Erbil

After the city of Mosul fell under the control of the Sunni tribes and ISIS, Christians have become very afraid of what action ISIS might take against them. ISIS released a document stipulating that Christians in Mosul had three options, converting to Islam, paying a special tax, or being executed. Those who did not comply to the terms had to leave the newly formed ‘Islamic State’ and all their possessions were confiscated by ISIS. Almost all of the Christian community fled the city in terror and travelled to Erbil and Duhook where they slept in churches.

The video shows two cars carrying a family that arrived from Mosul today after passing through an ISIS checkpoint where their money, jewellery, and car were taken from them.

Abu Youssef, the first speaker, explains their trip from Mosul. However he, along with the priest, refused to appear in front of the camera out of fear that they would killed should they ever return to the city. They were also afraid that their homes in Mosul would be destroyed or burned down if they were seen on camera saying negative things about ISIS.

Due to security reasons, we were not allowed to film the hall on the lower level, where families are staying, or where the kitchen and sleeping spaces are. However, we were allowed to take footage of one room that included a family with special needs (disabilities) and to meet with them and ask them about their situation in their new home.

Interviewees:
Abu Youssef: Father of a Christian family that just moved out of Mosul
Father D. Meti: The priest in Um al-Nour church
Abu Reem: Father of an immigrated Christian family

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Karen Christmas 4
Maela refugee camp Mae Sot
By vincenzo floramo
24 Dec 2013

Naw Tue Tu,65 years old listens to the priest Sermon during the Christmas day at the local Anglican Church at Mae la refugee camp.

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Protest against violence 6
Durban, Africa
By Elo B
26 Oct 2013

Priest holds speech during a Prayer walk organized by the Christ Kingdom Citizens in front of the City Hall in Durban.

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Christian fear of Islamism
Damascus, Syria
By lukas.goga
23 Sep 2013

Article is about Syrian Christians who fear of their future in Syria if Islamism won. Photos are from Bab Touma, a Christian quarter in Old Damascus

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Christian fear of Islamism
Damascus, Syria
By lukas.goga
23 Sep 2013

Article is about Syrian Christians who fear of their future in Syria if Islamism won.

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An Ancient Tradition of Lelo (6 of 20)
Shukhuti, Georgia
By Arturas Morozovas
05 May 2013

Local orthodox priest (center) carrying the Lelo Barti ball to the village center a few minutes before the game starts.

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The Last Church in Benghazi (12 of 14)
Tripoli, Libya
By Tripcarbons
23 Apr 2013

Father Alan leaves the congregation to conclude the service.

As Father Alan takes mass in Benghazi’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church a young Libyan sits in the doorway wearing Adidas tracksuit bottoms and a football shirt and holding an elderly looking sawn-off shotgun.

Immaculate Conception is the city’s last functioning church after gunmen attacked the Greek Orthodox Church in March assaulting the priests and setting it on fire.

Since the revolution the church has been broken into twice and it’s only five minutes away from an open-air gun market but its priests say the only thing that will make them close the church is if the government asks them to leave.

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Ritual Exhumation -Ifugao, Philippines
Ifugao, Philippines
By U.S. Editor
19 Mar 2013

Bogwa is an ancient ritual in Ifugao, Philippines where natives in Kiangan, Asipulo, Banaue, Lagawe, Hingyon, and Hungduan exhume their death as a form of love and respect to their departed relatives. They feast, celebrate, and offer prayers to the dead for three days.

Although most Ifuagonos have converted to Christianity, they still practice this ritual taboo and incorporate Christian songs and prayers during “Bogwa”.

On the first day of "Bogwa", a Mumbaki (priest) will offer a prayer and a ritual asking the spirits to allow them to open the tomb of the dead.

After opening the tomb, a group of men are now ready to exhume the dead body and clean its 246 bones tediously . The men remove the garments and decaying flesh of the dead with their bare hands.

After cleaning the bones, they bury the decaying flesh near the tomb and sundry the cleaned bones. Next they wrap the skeleton's bones with white cloth and place native Ifugao garments over the white cloth.They will lay the wrapped bones in the favorite area of their beloved where they will pray and sing Christian songs for 3 days.

All people who wish to join the celebration are welcome. The family who is celebrating this unusual day are required to butcher pigs every day to feed all the visitors and on the last day they must also butcher a carabao.

A new coffin is made for the wrapped bones.

Before returning the dead to his tomb, a closing prayer and ritual is done and family members are asked to throw stones inside the tomb and make wishes to the spirits of their departed loved ones.

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The Pilgrimage (13 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
30 Dec 2012

An Ethiopian Orthodox Christian priest greets pilgrims as they descend upon Bet Giyorgis, the iconic cross-shaped church. The church, along with 10 other rock churches, make up Lalibela's pilgrimage site. Inside each church is a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, which is viewed only by the priests and deacons. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.

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The Pilgrimage (11 of 29)
Lalibela, Ethiopia
By Leyland Cecco
29 Dec 2012

An Ethiopian Orthodox priest awaits pilgrims in one of Lalibela's 12 stone churches. Pilgrims flock to the holy city each year for Christmas. Perched high in the mountains of Northern Ethiopia, Bet Giyorgis is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for one of the oldest Christian sects in the world, the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Lalibela, Ethiopia. December 2012.