In times of crisis, religious institutions are often able to play a critical role in meeting practical needs and providing emotional and spiritual care to promote hope and resiliency. The responses of the church in Iraq to the genocidal attacks of ISIS in 2014 provides a vivid portrait of how these institutions meet needs in times of crisis.
Father Salar Kojo, a Chaldean Catholic priest in Telesqof, Iraq was on the frontlines of this response and reflected on the ways his community served in this time of crisis in an interview with RFI.
During the time of crisis, “we had poor families without jobs or they were widows or disabled families. The church aims always to help the most vulnerable people like the sick, orphans, widows, or the elderly.”
As Christians, drawing on scripture provides a resource for motivation. While passages are numerous, James 1:27 provides one of the most explicit. It says, “religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.”
People came to the church because they knew not only that they could find material assistance, “but more than this the spiritual care that could be found in the church.”
The experience of Iraq in the aftermath of genocide and mass atrocities targeting many of Iraq’s religious minority communities – Yazidi, Christian, Turkoman, Shabak, Kaka’i, and many Muslims – also reminds us that in these times of crisis the church not only serves there own but provides valuable care for the whole society.
Fr. Salar said they had people from every community coming to them, “because they know that the church gives to everyone without distinction.” In this time of crisis, it was a place that they could trust to care for those in need.
These institutions possessed a reservoir of trust cultivated over years of faithful service to the spiritual needs but also the material needs through hospitals, schools, and service to the poor and needy.
To hear more from Fr. Salar in his own words watch this episode of Where God Weeps: Rebuilding Iraq