Iraq: Chaldean Patriarch Urges ‘Spirituality of Exile and of Return’

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    The Holy Bible contains a rich patrimony of writings useful to develop a suggestive and fruitful spirituality able to support and comfort the people who experience the displacement from their homes, the experience of living the condition of exile, imprisonment, and persecution and then also the experience of returning to the places of one’s ordinary life. A spirituality which should be promoted in the Christian communities of the Middle East, which in recent years, due to wars and jihadist violence, have often been forced to abandon the places of their traditional rooting.

    This is the suggestion contained in a broad reflection on the “theology of departure and return” proposed by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, and spread through the official channels of the Chaldean Patriarchate, reported November 14, 2018, by Fides News Agency.

    “The Prophets Micah, Amos, Isaiah and Jeremiah and in particular Ezekiel” recalls the Patriarch, ” strongly expressed the theology of displacement – captivity while Ezekiel offered deep reflections on the experience of the return and reconstruction of their own houses and the fabric of social co-existence that had been torn by the vicissitudes of history. The same existential dynamics are at the center of many biblical psalms.

    “Today we are called to discover the richness of these experiences by reading it carefully with a deep spiritual faith in the light of our experience during the invasion of Nineveh Plain in August 2014 by the Islamic terrorists (ISIS), when so many Christians shared the condition of being displaced, having their homes destroyed and living for more than 3.5 years in camps, in addition to facing social, economic, psychological, political and religious challenges.”

    Since the liberation of the seized areas, completed in 2017, many Iraqi Christians were brave enough to returned and started the process of reconstruction, with all its complications. In such a context, the attempt to develop a real “theology” of forced migration, exile and return can be useful to everyday life, comparing one’s own experience to those narrated in the Holy Scriptures, to help everyone to read the signs of times and live the theological virtue of hope in the condition in which they find themselves, and not be overwhelmed by frustration and despair.

    Every human being who suffers from injustice, persecution, social and economic pressure, and terrorism, would certainly ask: Why? same as “the persecuted” Jesus asked when He was nailed on the Cross: “Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27/46). “People who ask such questions”, added the Patriarch “are not actually denying the existence of God, but they are talking to Him and this is their prayers”

    Today – concludes Louis Raphael Sako – pastoral care in helping the flowering of an analogous spirituality “is the responsibility of our Churches, of our Catholic and Orthodox Patriarchates and of our faithful”.

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