Palm Sunday in Basra, Iraq
Palm Sunday, 2017
This morning we were with Bishop Habib Hormuz Al-Naufali of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Basra, Iraq.
It’s a work day. No church this morning.
The church will have morning services on Easter, but today—like the rest of their Sunday services, will be at night.
Working on Sunday is just a reality of being a religious minority here.
Before the US invasion, the churches here were among the largest in Iraq, and they had huge public Palm Sunday celebrations in the streets, but now five of their Diocese churches are empty and they have to be careful about their public presence.
“Da3sh has broken the back of the Church in Iraq,” Bishop Al-Naufali says.
But they continue to minister to the community through schools and other ways of meeting human need.
Reflecting back to Jesus’ original procession into Jerusalem–which led him toward the cross on a path of humility, suffering and self-giving—it seems appropriate that this morning is spent receiving donated items for disabled children from a visiting group and meeting with a local pastor to plan the expansion of education in their city. Even as he shows us a twisted piece of metal from a car bomb placed in front of their church two years ago, Bishop Al-Naufali talks hopefully about the future: “We don’t know what the situation will be after Da3sh is gone, but those who have been embittered by extremism and violence, even Muslims and atheists, will need the presence of Christian values. I see a future.
Tonight they will gather in worship with the traditional palm branches, but this morning’s “celebration” also bears a remarkable resemblance to the road traveled by Jesus.