At the end of a meeting in Erbil, Iraqi prelates call for a plural and pluralistic Iraq. Patriarch Sako and the Chaldean bishops praised the recent military victories against the Islamic State group, hopeful that this might be a prelude to Christians going back to their homes. A the same time, they called for urgent economic action to create jobs and fight poverty. They also expressed concern over financial and political corruption.
Erbil (AsiaNews) – His Beatitude, Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako met this morning with the Chaldean Bishops in Iraq at the Patriarchate summer headquarters in Ankawa, Erbil, to discuss the latest development in Iraq and the Middle East, especially the situation of Iraqi Christians in their homeland and in the region.
In a statement sent to AsiaNews, the bishops “Expressed their pride toward the Iraqi army” for its “progress and victory” against Daesh (also known as the Islamic State group). They also gave “their support and solidarity” for the millions of Christians forced to flee or emigrate, hopeful that one day they might “go back to their homes and live in freedom, dignity and peace.” In view of this, they call for Christian political leaders to be included in Iraq’s future government.
The Chaldean patriarch and Iraqi prelates discussed the situation in Iraq and in the region, with particular attention to the fate of its Christians, in Iraq and in neighbouring countries. They expressed special concern for the problem of “widespread financial corruption” in the county, as well as its “sharp economic decline,” and the resulting “severe fiscal crisis”.
Church leaders also noted the country’s precarious security situation, which cannot improve unless urgent measures are taken with respect to jobs, wages, and business opportunities.
They noted in fact that “A large number of families [. . .] are living at or below the poverty line,” something highlighted by World Bank data that show that more than a quarter (28 per cent) of Iraqi families live below the minimum threshold, a trend that is worsening because of violence and political and institutional impasse.
Overall, about 16 per cent of the population is affected by food insecurity. More importantly, 22 per cent of children under five are malnourished; 21 per cent suffer from stunted growth and another 5 per cent, from wasting.
The Patriarchate and the Chaldean hierarchs call on the authorities to deliver basic services to all citizens, as well as promote social justice, respect for human rights, and end sectarian divisions.
For this to happen, "reforms" are necessary, and cannot be “separated from the process of speeding up a genuine national and comprehensive reconciliation”. This needs a “wise and smart political leadership”.
This, the bishops believe, demands that Christians be included “in the new government based on the speech of the Iraqi prime minister to the Parliament on 31 March 2016,” when he said that “all of the components of [the] Iraqi people [be included] in the new cabinet”.
The coming cabinet reshuffle should be the first step in this direction, and “should start with a change of heart, unrestraint mind and liberation of the soul”.
The Chaldean prelates called for a rapid liberation of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, and recognise the sacrifices made by the “Iraqi army, peshmerga forces,” and other “paramilitary groups” (al-Hashd al-Shaabi) that inflicted major losses on the Islamic State group in recent weeks. Only through “courage, strength and determination” can this crisis be overcome.
Finally, the prelates want to see Christian properties, homes and business in Baghdad protected from criminal gangs and extremist groups. At the same time, they “call [on] Christians to be patient, persistent and not to be dragged into a random immigration and its promoters.”