Iraqi Christian leader blames West for decline of Christian community
Western intervention has done what 1,500 years of Islam were not able to do: extirpate Christians from Iraq - says Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako of Babylon.
Terrorist attacks have claimed scores of lives in Iraq in the days before the April 30 elections despite strict security measures imposed by the police and army. In some areas of Baghdad, vehicular traffic has been prohibited as a security measure. However, during the first hours of Election Day, at least 10 deaths were reported in addition to at least two dozen injured parties.
Some 22 million Iraqis are going to the polls to decide on some 85 candidates representing 9 different lists competing for 5 seats out of a total of 328 that the electoral system reserves for Christian candidates. These five seats are distributed in the cities of Baghdad, Kirkuk, Nineveh, Arbil and Dahuk.
In the days before the election, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Louis Raphael I Sako lamented that the indigenous Christian community of Iraq - among the oldest in the world - may soon disappear. According to the Fides news agency, Patriarch Raphael said "A few days ago, I visited the city of Hilla, where in the '90s, 287 Christian families lived. Currently there are 21 families. In Baghdad there are 21 open Chaldean parishes, some others have been closed or merged. In the Church of the Ascension in al-Mashtal, there were 5,000 families and over 240 students preparing for their First Communion every year before the regime’s fall. On April 25, I celebrated in this church the Holy Mass for the Holy Communion of 13 students".
The Patriarch cited the causes of Christians' emigration: war, deteriorating security conditions, sectarian violence, seizure of property, unemployment, and widespread perception on the part of Christians that their role in society is in decline. As for the disappearance of Iraq's Christian community, the Patriarch shifted some of the blame to the foreign policies of Western countries. "Democracy and Change" emphasizes Patriarch Sako comes through upbringing and education rather than through conflict. Intervention by the West in the region did not solve the problems of those countries, but on the contrary, produced more chaos and conflict. Honestly, 1,400 years of Islam could not uproot us from our land and our churches, while the policies of the West has scattered us and distributed us all around the world".
Catholic bishops of Botswana, South Africa, and Swaziland denounced the conduct of war in Gaza, Iraq, and Syria, while calling on Muslims to eschew persecution of Christians and other minorities.
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