IslamNews – Pope Francis met the father of Alan Kurdi, the drowned boy whose body washed up on the shore became an emblem of the suffering of refugees, as his extraordinary three-day tour of war-wracked Iraq came to a close.
The Pontiff had earlier brushed off security concerns, taking a helicopter to the former Islamic State stronghold of Mosul where Isis first declared its caliphate, to remember thousands killed the brutal conflict in a ceremony held in the bombed out remains of several churches.
He then traveled to nearby Qaraqosh, that was once Iraq’s main Christian city before it was ransacked by Isis, before pressing on to the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil where spoke with Abudallah Kurdi. Abdullah’s three year old son Alan had drowned along with his mother and brother when a smuggling boat taking them to Europe capsized off the coast of Turkey in 2015. The image of the little boy of the show captured the world’s attention as millions of Syrian fled civil war there and tried to board similarly rickety boats to Europe.
Pope Francis held the largest mass of his historic Iraq trip Sunday after visiting war-scarred cities to comfort Christian survivors of the Islamic State group’s reign of terror.
The pontiff was greeted by thousands in a sports stadium in the Kurdistan region’s capital Erbil, The Mass was the pope’s final engagement on his whirlwind four-day visit to Iraq aimed at boosting the morale of the country’s small Christian communities and urging peaceful coexistence between religions.
Iraq’s Christian community, one of the oldest in the world, has been particularly devastated by the country’s years of conflict, falling to about 300,000 from about 1.5 million before the US invasion of 2003 and the brutal extremist militant violence that followed.