Rome (Agenzia Fides) - "When the Church opens for the good of others she flourishes, when she closes she dries up. The Church lives only when she goes out of herself, as the words of the Pope teach us ". Brother Jihad Youssef, a monk of Deir Mar Musa - monastic community founded in Syria by Jesuit Father Paolo Dall’Oglio kidnapped in 2013 in Raqqa – reassumes in a conversation with Fides time spent with hundreds of Iraqi Christian families sheltering in Turkey. "My adventure was one of formation rather than mission – he explains – I received a hundred fold more that I gave in my misery ". Brother Youssef spent two periods in 2016 and in 2017 among Iraqi refugees offering them spiritual and pastoral care. "The Church in Iraq - he recalls – has experienced a hemorrhage and is in a perpetual state of fear. Numerous faithful fled the country hoping to reach Europe or North America. But many remain blocked in Turkey waiting for a visa, and hoping to start a new life elsewhere ". Not only Christians flee but also thousands of Sunni Muslims harassed by the Shiite majority. At present 145,000 Iraqis live in Turkey.
Regarding his experience in Turkey, Brother Youssef adds "For me it was a time to discover the Gospel. I felt I was a foreigner because of the different language and social context. In Syria we are accepted as Christians, but in Cappadocia baptized persons suffer because of ignorance and at times are scorned. The people are poor but not ashamed to give what they can".
Brother Youssef was received by Catholic and Orthodox families to whom he offered, before his spiritual assistance, his friendship: "The families welcomed me warmly. I did not ask if they were Catholics or Orthodox. I prayed with them. This enabled me to experience, among other things, the unity of the Church, as never before ", he says.
Brother Youssef speaks of his experience in Iraq in a book recently published in Italy and in Italian published by Ancora, with the title "Abbiamo fame e nostalgia di Eucaristia. Diario di viaggio tra i profughi cristiani dell'Iraq" (We hunger and long for the Eucharist. Diary of a journey among Christian refugees in Iraq) . (EC) (Agenzia Fides 4/12/2018)