Iraq must preserve its “unity” in the “diversity of its components” and their “multiplicity”, although in recent years “most political parties” have fueled and sharpened “sectarianism and fragmentation” writes the Chaldean primate Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako.
In a message published on the patriarchate website and sent to AsiaNews, the Cardinal states that the “solution” to the “Iraqi crisis” is a “secular state” founded on citizenship. The “goal”, continues the cardinal, “is the integration” of the various components and “service to citizens” without distinction of identity.
Card Sako, who today meets Pope Francis in the Vatican at the meeting of the patriarchs of the Catholic Churches of the East, is writing in a context of profound political and social turmoil, with street protests taking place for months against corruption and economic crisis. The authorities have repeatedly tried to quell the demonstrations, triggering clashes that have resulted in over 500 deaths.
The recent appointment of a new Prime Minister has created further divisions (and violence) between al-Sadr supporters who support the new executive and the base of Tharir square in Baghdad (heart of the revolt) which intends to continue with the street demonstrations. In the clashes of the last few days between the two fronts in the holy city of Najaf and in nearby Hilla, at least eight people died, confirming a profound social divide that worries the leaders of the Iraqi Church.
Asked by AsiaNews about the new wave of violence, Msgr. Basil Yaldo, auxiliary of Baghdad and close collaborator of Card Sako, recalls “the patriarch’s repeated calls for dialogue between the parties. We must listen to the people in the streets, in the squares – continues the prelate – because they ask only for a country in which we can live in peace “. The new executive, he adds, “is very unlikely to meet people’s favor.”
However, if Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi manages to satisfy some legitimate demands of the demonstrators, perhaps a solution will be possible. “Much will depend – concludes the auxiliary bishop – on what will happen in the coming days. He has a week of time, so there is little leeway in this situation. We, as Chaldean patriarchate, celebrate a mass every day for peace and for a shared solution that also meets the aspirations and demands of those who protest. “
In the message published by the Chaldean patriarch, he recalls the “mosaic” of “civilizations, cultures, nationalities, languages and religions” at the basis of Iraq, which constitutes “a single national and human heritage” as emerges “from peaceful demonstrators in the squares” . The cardinal continues, “a secular state” is needed which is founded on “civil society and not on the church or the mosque” because faith “does not build a state”.
Highlighting the principle of freedom of worship, Card Sako also warns that “one should not fall into the trap of western secularism” which often denies or relegates religion to the background. We need, concludes the Chaldean primate, a nation that promotes “justice, equality, respect for individual freedoms, citizenship rights” and that facilitates “integration” according to a spirit of “tolerance and acceptance” that favors “renewal and progress”.