In Iraq the procedures to renew residency status are not so complicated, but are cumbersome. After requesting a letter from the Bishop, spending a whole morning in the Christian affairs office, and visiting approximately 30 offices in the building where the paperwork for residency is processed, one has to wait for the paperwork to go through all the state revisions until the ok is given. The wait time is anywhere from one to ten months.
In theory, we have had the residence (per year) an average of six months and the rest was waiting on the process.
This has prevented us from traveling away from the city to visit other places within the country as a community due to the fact that when Fr. Jorge had his residency up to date mine was in progress and vice versa.
It also made it difficult for us to travel alone, because to go up north of the country, or to go to Basra (south), there are many check points on the way, and even if the residence documentation is in progress, a soldier could make us return ruining our trip.
That is why we have practically not moved from Bagdad.
They asked us to try, because with an official letter from the Church we would not have any problems. For that reason, even without the documents totally in order because they are in the process, I went with the three consecrated laywomen to that city.
Duhok is the capital of the homonymous governorate. Approximately a million people live there and it is surrounded by mountains.
The contrast with Bagdad is remarkable: wide streets, clean and tidy, no army checkpoints, not closed with concrete blocks, clean air, electricity 24 hours (this week recently in Bagdad, after three years living here we had a whole day of electricity in the nation. In summer we had about four hours per day), without bombings or explosions, etc. After three years hearing explosions all the time, it was like being in another country!!!
The experience was very enriching: first of all because in many years, spiritual exercises had not been preached in Iraq.
We were next to the Tigris River, the third river that flowed from the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:14), in the homeland of our father Abraham (Gen 11,31), place where Babylon, symbol of the power of the devil outdated , named by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the meditation of the two flags .
The retreatants were very happy and asked to do the spiritual exercises again next year.
Thirdly, it allowed us know something of the range of Iraq, a country full of contradictions where one can clearly feel God’s greatness and the misery of sin.
There is so much to do. What we do seems so little. Yet the good that is planted always bears fruit!
We count on your prayers,
Fr. Luis Montes, IVE