In Abraham's cradle, the Pope will find only one Christian family

In Abraham’s cradle, the Pope will find only one Christian family

The Pope Francisco He has made his pilgrimage to Ur, the birthplace of Abraham according to the Bible, the most spiritual stage of his trip to Iraq, but today, in the rural and Shiite province of Di Car, only one Christian family lives.

Maher Tobia, 53, affirms that his is the only Christian family still present in the city of Nasiriyah, 17 km from the archaeological remains of Ur. It is in this place, in the oldest city in the world, “Ur de the Chaldeans ” of the Bible, that the prophet Abraham was born, according to tradition.

All the Christians Tobia met when he was young, he says, “went to Baghdad or Iraqi Kurdistan, and most of them left the country afterward.”

But with the visit of Pope Francis, which brings “a message of friendship and peace”, Tobia is convinced that “the situation will improve” in the rebel province, the spearhead of all the “revolutions” in Iraq, among them the last, in October 2019.

Just a week ago, several protesters died.

At the most critical moment of the revolt, the Argentine pope called for an end to the deadly repression of the protests, in which almost 600 people died and 30,000 were injured.

“The visit of a man of this size with this religious weight could benefit Di Car and his pilgrimage sites,” says Tobia.

“If this visit is well done, it could have great repercussions,” says this Iraqi graduate in Fine Arts, full of hope.

“In the footsteps of Francisco”

When Maher Tobia’s father was born in 1914 and then he, 57 years later, in Nasiriya, capital of this tribal and agricultural province, and until the international embargo against Iraq in the early 1990s, there were still “20 to 30 families Christians ”in the area.

Unlike his grandfather, who settled in Nasiriya under the Ottoman Empire and founded a factory, all these families, he explains to AFP, were officials sent by Baghdad or stationed in the city for a time, before returning to their place of residence. source.

After the 2003 US invasion that overthrew the dictator Saddam Hussein, “there were only two Christian families in Nasiriyah,” says this man, with a small white mustache and wearing an impeccable black suit.

“Let the weapons be silent,” the pope claims during his historic visit to Iraq

In two decades, Iraq’s Christian minority – largely Chaldean, that is, Catholic – has been drastically reduced.

If before 2003 it was one and a half million, currently there are between 300,000 and 400,000 faithful, according to minority defense organizations in Iraq, which warn that these families will continue to leave, in a country where the poverty rate doubled last year until 40% of the population.

And after four decades of war, the country’s economy is sinking even further due to falling oil prices – the country’s only source of foreign exchange – and a recent brutal devaluation.

The Pope's Journey in Iraq. (AFP).
The Pope’s Journey in Iraq. (AFP).

Taking advantage of Francis’ visit, several Iraqi tourism agencies are preparing tours “in the footsteps of the Pope.”

The authorities assure, for their part, that they are considering facilitating the conditions for obtaining tourist visas, until now almost non-existent except for Shiite religious tourism to the holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf.

Perhaps the local authorities will build a church for the pilgrims in Di Car.

And Tobia will no longer have to go to Baghdad, 400 km to the north, or to Basra, further south, for “weddings or funerals.”

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.