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Forced like Jesus Christ to flee: being present for those who are internally displaced

Fr. Jalal Yako reflects on his “powerful, painful but richly human” experience of service among internally displaced persons in the camp of Erbil, Iraq.

By Vatican News staff writer

The Church commemorated the 2020 World Day of Migrants and Refugees on 27 September 2020.

On that 106th observance of the annual celebration, Pope Francis, addressing the faithful gathered at St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus, greeted the migrants and refugees who were present and gathered around the bronze sculpture entitled “Angels, unawares” which he had blessed the previous year.

The Pope’s message for the World Day, dedicated to internally displaced persons, is themed “Forced like Jesus Christ to flee.” It is inspired by the experience of Jesus as a child and his parents as displaced refugees.

“Likewise, the displaced, migrants,” said the Pope, “our remembrance and our prayer go to them in a particular way, and to those who assist them. 

Fr. Yako’s story

A series of videos by the Vatican’s Migrant and Refugees Section highlights the experiences of migrants and migration issues from all over the world.

Today's video, the seventh of the series,  tells the story of Father Jalal Yako, an Iraqi Rogationist missionary from Qaraqosh who works closely with internally displaced persons at a camp in Erbil, north of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Being present

Fr. Yako recounts that his experience of living with close to 250 families in the camp is a “powerful, painful experience but richly human.” 

“Being with them had an immense emotional impact on me, on my growth and sense of humanity,” he says. “Being present helped us to think about them, to share with them and be close to them. This presence has become very human… full of feelings and suffering.

These families, he continues, live in containers in very harsh conditions–even in the bitter cold of the winter months.

Fr. Yako helps to provide pastoral ministry with catechism, daily Masses and other prayers. Thanks to the donations of generous donors, he has also built a place for worship and prayer for the families at the camp.

“These people need our presence," says Fr. Yako, "to raise their hopes and to help them in small and large matters."

30 October 2020, 12:00