A Call to Fraternity and Solidarity: Papal Visit to Iraq

The Papal visit to Iraq brings much needed attention to a country and people who have experienced a great deal of suffering and a call for fraternity and solidarity.

Next week, beginning March 5, His Holiness Pope Francis will visit Iraq. The visit is an opportunity to bring much needed attention to a country and people who have faced many challenges over the years.

JRS has witnessed first-hand the immense suffering of those whose lives have been directly impacted by war, persecution, displacement, and conflict in Iraq. Our teams started there in response to the Sinjar massacre and genocide of Yazidi (or Ezidi) people in the summer of 2014, accompanying some of the more than 1.4 million forcibly displaced persons in Iraq. Our teams and work have since grown, and now with support from U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, JRS implements programs directly, focusing on protection, education, and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), in multilayered projects that promote social cohesion. More than 97% of JRS Iraq staff are Iraqis from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, most of whom were formerly or are still displaced.

Ahead of Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq, our JRS team in the region has made the following recommendations to the international community, informed by our experience in Iraq.

  • JRS supports and encourages efforts to rebuild a healthy social fabric in which Iraqis of different faiths and ethnicities can re-establish connections damaged by conflict. A necessary part of this is the reconstruction of infrastructure, services, and spaces that will in turn assist some of the displaced to return to areas of origin voluntarily, safely, with dignity, and sustainably.
  • Given that more than 40% of the population of Iraq are below the age of 15, investment must be prioritized to ensure a qualitative boost to education and job creation.
  • The re-development of the public healthcare infrastructure should include specialized mental health services, particularly for survivors of atrocities and children.
  • JRS joins the Yazidi community in advocating for specialized assistance to identify and rescue those who were abducted by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and are still missing. More than three years after the declaration of victory over IS, in excess of 2,880 Yazidis remain missing, many of whom continue to be enslaved or held in detention.
  • We encourage the international community to work with Iraq to help address the country’s growing environmental stress due to climate change before it is too late. JRS sees opportunities in diversifying the economy, developing sustainable fossil fuel free energy sources, and rehabilitating water resources and the natural environment.

Read the full statement here.

You can also take action to support displaced refugees, by taking the time to learn more and sharing their stories.


Learn more about the plight of the Yazidi people. August 3rd 2021 will mark the 7 years since the start of the captivity and genocide. The psychological impact of this on individuals, families and the Yazidi community as a whole is severe. For as long as those abducted remain in captivity, the crimes of ISIS against the Yazidi community continue.

No comprehensive international or governmental effort to search for missing Yazidi people has taken place, and JRS, in cooperation with community organizations, is calling for action. Click here to learn more about the issue and about the action demanded by JRS and over thirty signatories including Yazidi survivors of captivity, families of the missing, activists, individuals involved in rescuing captured Yazidis and organizations supporting Yazidi survivors.


Watch first hand testimonies part of our #DoNotForgetUs campaign.