Thursday, 2 October 2003

Baghdad (Fides Service) - To share and alleviate people’s troubles, show solidarity, help them grow in faith: with these objectives a group of Iraqi Catholic seminarians, presently studying theology at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, spent their Summer holidays in Iraq thanks to arrangements made by the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. Fides spoke with one of the group Rayan Atto.

Why did you want to visit your homeland at such a difficult time?
We wanted to see our people and share their troubles at this difficult time in our history. We wanted to use our Summer vacation to show solidarity with our people. We asked the Rector of the College, Fr Fidel Gonzales to allow us to go home for a couple of months. With the help and support of the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples we went. We could not bear to see Iraq only on television, we wanted to be there and help our people, to witness our faith and as future priests help the people to strengthen their faith.

What did you do while you were there?
We offered spiritual and material help. We led a Summer camp for children of the Christian village of Arbil in Iraq Kurdistan. With the Christian community we prepared for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross 14 September by organising a retreat for families and young people and then we celebrated the day with great solemnity. Everyone thanked us for coming and for all that we did. It gave them hope for the future now that the war is over.

The media say the lack of security is acute and makes life difficult in Iraq. What do you say?
Life is not easy and people find it difficult to make ends meet. But the media often exaggerate. It should be underlined that the US Administration in Iraq is working hard to restore security with the help of young volunteers to build the new Iraq, a responsibility which the Americans and British have shouldered, but a task which falls first of all to the Iraqis themselves.

What sort of Iraq were you expecting to find and what did you find?
We were expecting to see Iraq in ruins, people on their knees, a country which was only a distant relative of the one we knew years ago. But the situation was not as bad as we had been led to imagine. Of course Baghdad is full of bombed out buildings, homes in ruins, shops blown to pieces, but it is still Baghdad a beautiful city, and today it is more beautiful than ever. It is wonderful to see people enjoying real freedom, smiling, talking, young people able to breath at last and voice their opinions and ideas. From what we saw we can say with conviction, our homeland, the future Iraq, will be more beautiful than ever!
BM (Fides Service 2/10/2003 EM lines 47 Words: 425)