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'Refugee Priests' Bring Hope to Displaced Christians

08-09-2016

Two years ago, three young Iraqi Christians were among the thousands of people fleeing the Islamic State invasion of Qaraqosh, their home town. This week, two years to the day after that tragedy, the three men were ordained as priests in a refugee camp in Erbil.

"My feeling is happy, happy!" Fr. Roni Salim Momika told Catholic News Agency. He believes their ordination "will give hope" to the 5,500 hundred Christian refugees from Qaraqosh and nearby villages living in the camp.

Located about 32 miles southeast of the city of Mosul, Qaraqosh and the surrounding area was home to some 160,000 Christians. But the invasion of Islamic terrorists changed the dynamic overnight.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled to Kurdistan after ISIS spray-painted homes with the Arabic letter "N" for "Nasrani" -- an insulting term for "Christian" -- and threatened believers with death if they did not convert to Islam.

Today, many of those who escaped Qaraqosh are still stranded in refugee camps in around  the big cities of Kurdistan. However, the church is present and the three new priests are signs of God's faithfulness to the people.

"Before it was a bad day because we became refugees and ISIS entered to Qaraqosh, but now this day became a good day because it's our ordination and we give hope to our people," Father Momika said.

Momika, along with his fellow new priests, described their forceful escape from Qaraqosh in 2014 as a "time of sadness" and a "time of challenge" for Christians of the region.

But they are hoping that their ordination will lift the spirits of some of the 5,500 Christians living inside Erbil's Aishty 2 camp.

Momika told Catholic News Agency that he wants "to give Christ to the people" and encourage those who've suffered persecution to remain steadfast despite the trials.

For the past two years, Momika has worked with the youth and led several women's groups inside the refugee camp.

All three men were ordained as priests of the Syriac-Catholic Church

 

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