Iraq Not Ready for Direct Democracy, Warn Catholic Observers

Archbishop Sako and Caritas-Germany Aide Voice Concerns

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ROME, JAN. 21, 2004 ( Catholic representatives say the Iraqis are not ready for the exercise of democracy and need help from abroad.

Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, 56, was one voice that cautioned against elections too soon. He was commenting on the statements of Shiite Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a “person who is esteemed by everyone,” the archbishop said.

“But we have to be realistic: His request to hold elections in two months is impossible,” Archbishop Sako said. “One must be content with what can be done. The Iraqi people are still not prepared; they must be prepared. They must learn to respect and accept the other. All this cannot be done in one or two days.”

“Behind these impossible requests are foreign pressures, which do not take into account the internal situation and the real needs of the people,” the archbishop added.

Noting the difficult economic situation and the lack of services endured by a people “no longer satisfied with promises,” the archbishop appealed for help from the international community, especially Arab countries.

This week, Karl Amman, the representative of Caritas-Germany in Iraq, is in the Vatican, to participate in the meeting of the Assembly of Organizations for Aid to the Eastern Churches (ROACO), an institution guided by the Holy See that intends to help Catholics in that country.

In statements on Vatican Radio, Amman also expressed his bewilderment over the proposal to hold direct elections.

Should elections take place, he said, “there is the possibility that a secular government will come to power; or, also, there could be a majority of Muslim votes, favoring a legislature shaped by the Muslim Shariah,” or Islamic law.

Amman said that the local Church “requests that the international community do all it can to ensure that the economic and political development of Iraq be at the service of all the ethnic and religious groups” of the country.

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