Your Grace is More Valuable

Give up the Christian faith, pay taxes to the Islamic State, which actually means to lose basic rights, leave “the land of Islam” behind or die beheaded...

Give up the Christian faith, pay taxes to the Islamic State, which actually means to lose basic rights, leave “the land of Islam” behind or die beheaded. Such a decision faced, along with thousands of Christians, Monsignor Amel Nona, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Iraq, when to save his life from Islamic State soldiers, left the city in 2014, after neglecting conversion to the faith the group promotes.

The religious leader visited the island of Puerto Rico and lectured in the event Tu gracia vale más que la vida (Your grace is more valuable than life), hosted by the Communion and Liberation Movement and Cáritas of Puerto Rico.

Monsignor Nona explained that after the guerrilla group arrived in 2014, Christians in Mosul left their homes, jobs, and properties and took refuge in emergency camps, but they kept their faith, because it is more important to them to give their children a testimony than material goods. “We never thought that it would be better to give up our faith. Our people, they certainly feel pain for what they have left behind, but they are happy because their faith is alive,” the archbishop claimed.

Faith is a fundamental element of identity in the Middle East, he added. Specifically, Christians arrived to Iraq in the first half of the first century and their patron is Saint Thomas, who walked through the place on his way to India.

Monsignor Nona told the audience that the Islamic State kidnapped two religious sisters from his diocese. After 17 days, one of the sisters called and put him on the phone with the so-called “prince” of the group. He made him choose between the four alternatives, and Monsignor Nona decided to leave Mosul. Then, the soldiers freed the sisters and let him and the other remaining Christians fly the zone. “The Islamic State wants the whole world to be Muslim. To them, it is a commandment of God and they do conversions by force. The fear terrorists have created is their main weapon. Our weapon is being happy. Mankind cannot live a true life without faith. When evil increases, grace does not abandon us. Wherever evil is present, God reveals himself with more strength,” the also doctor in theological anthropology detailed.

Even though Monsignor Nona claimed he would return to Iraq with happiness, he sees that as unlikely to happen for Christians mainly for two reasons: the diocese of Mosul does not exist anymore and, when they left the place behind, they lost all their possessions. Now, he is the archbishop of the Chaldean diocese of Saint Thomas of Australia and New Zealand.

“The most useful way to defeat the Islamic terrorism is having people live their faith with happiness. How can you (Western people) help when you live so far? By living your faith and being true and happy Christians. It helps us to know there are such Christians around. The world needs Christian people more than ever in history,” the religious leader specified.