The period running up to parliamentary elections in Iraq in March will be critical for the long term security of a country beset by violence.
Caritas fears that extremists will use the elections to carry out acts of violence and that the poor will suffer the most.
Mosul, Kirkuk, and Dora in Baghdad will be hot spots according to Caritas, which is carrying out assessments of vulnerable communities in those areas to be able to plan for displacements of people and urgent needs of those caught in conflicts.
Last November, the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Church (ROACO) held a meeting in Erbil, Northern Iraq, bringing together Iraqi bishops, the Nuncio, Iraqi church partners, and the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Oeuvre d’Orient, MISSIO, Misereor, Aid to the Church in Need, I.C.O. (Austria), D.K.A. Austria (Kath. Jungschau Osterreichs), Archbishopric of Cologne, and Caritas Germany, Caritas Iraq and Caritas Middle East and North Africa (MONA).
Participants looked at best practices and coordination in providing support to the people of Iraq. The programme was moderated by Fr. Paul Karam, Director of the Pontifical Missions Societies in Lebanon.
This meeting had a major role in strengthening the relationships and establishing a higher level of collaboration and understanding for the good of the Church in Iraq.
Through the presentations of Caritas Iraq, Germany and Middle East and North Africa (MONA), the meeting was also a huge opportunity for developing faith and confidence in the mission of Caritas as the social arm of the Catholic Church.
Catholic Social Teaching in the Middle East
After the Iraq meeting, representatives from the Catholic Church and Caritas Organizations from the Middle East took place in Fuheis, Jordan on December 16-18. It was the first meeting of its kind. It was organized by Caritas Jordan, in coordination with Caritas MONA and CRS, and under the patronage of Patriarch Fuad Twal. Many members of the Catholic Hierarchy including the Apostolic Nuncio attended, as well as social and educational institutions from Jordan, Jerusalem, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt.
Speakers included Patriarch Twal, Mrs. Huda Muasher, Caritas Jordan Chairperson, Att. Joseph Farah, Caritas MONA president, and Mr. Mark Schnellbaecher, CRS EME Regional Director, Msgr. Antoine Audo, Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo, Dr. Amer Al-Hafy, Professor in Religion Comparison at the University of Al-albayt in Amman, and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, and a board member of Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
The presentations covered various topics ranging from the papal encyclicals “Deus Caritas Est” and “Caritas in Veritate”; to themes such as “Forming a People of Peace”, “Parish Social Ministry”, Justice, Dignity, Solidarity, and the “Added Value of Collaboration between Faith-Based Organizations”; as well as practical issues related to management and auditing of social development projects.
Open discussions made room for rich sharing of experiences, lessons learned, and challenges; this is but a first step in a long journey of improved collaboration and enhanced coordination among these institutions for higher education and deeper implementation of Catholic Social Teaching among the Christian Community in the war-stricken, justice-craving Middle East.