ASIA/IRAQ - Today 16 April in Baghdad children make their first Holy Communion. Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Mattoka, of Syrian Catholics in Baghdad told Fides: “Iraqis of different faiths can live side by side

Friday, 16 April 2004

Baghdad (Fides Service) - “We ask all Christians to pray for the people of Iraq at this difficult time” Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Mattoka, Archbishop of the Catholic Syrian Church in Baghdad, told Fides. “All the many different Christians in Iraq are praying and working to ensure that coexistence of all faiths in Iraq which has existed for 1,600 years may continue” the Archbishop told Fides. “Here there is great fear that there may be an assault on the cities of Najaf and Falluja. I hope it will not happen because we are convinced that dialogue is only way out of violence ”.
At Easter Archbishop Mattoka was personally involved in collecting aid to send to the people of Falluja where there was violent fighting. Fides spoke to him just before he went to visit the families of children who are about to make their First Holy Communion.
“I am about to go to an open air meeting with the children of Baghdad who will make their First Holy Communion today” the Archbishop told Fides. “This is an act of peace and hope in the future as well as being a way to share the joy of these children and families”.
Today, 16 April, children of all the different Catholic rites in Baghdad will receive Holy Communion for the first time. “We have First Communions on Fridays, because Friday is a holiday in Iraq. Families can get together for the occasion and despite the atmosphere of insecurity many families have organised parties for the event” the Archbishop concluded. At this dramatic time in the Sacrament of the Eucharist the Lord Jesus comes to these little Iraqi children who are the hope for the future of the country.
The fact that coexistence among people of all faiths is possible in Iraq was demonstrated in the northern town of Mosul. In that town on Easter Day, April 11, the Christians received threats. Immediately the fact was known, the governor of Mosul, a Muslim, went personally to visit the Christian communities to reassure them that they had nothing to fear and he stayed for the Easter service and celebrations (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 16/4/2004, righe parole)