KIRKUK, Iraq, NOV. 18, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk criticized Western media “misinformation” about his country and insisted that Iraqis are looking forward to elections “because they will be useful for national unity.”
“It is not all death and destruction,” explained Archbishop Louis Sako in an interview Tuesday published by AsiaNews.
“Much is positive in Iraq today,” he said. “Universities are operating, schools are open, people go out onto the streets normally.” He did acknowledge that “where there’s a kidnapping or a homicide the news gets out immediately, and this causes fear among the people.”
Yet, “there is no organized resistance” in Iraq, the prelate insisted. “Those who commit such violence are resisting against Iraqis who want to build their country.
“Iraqis instead are resisting against terrorism and are not carrying out attacks, which instead are the work of foreign infiltrators. I have stressed this before: Saudis, Jordanians, Syrians and Sudanese have entered Iraq. Prime Minister Allawi has said this as well. And clearly, there are also Iraqi collaborators who, for money, help the terrorist hide.”
According to Archbishop Sako, to overcome this crisis, Iraqis must “manage themselves.”
“We have a government now that is setting up elections, and those who want to run for government can do so, freely,” he explained.
The archbishop said that the “war being fought by the terrorists is senseless.” If they want an “open, modern and democratic Iraq” they “can register to vote, negotiate with the new government, and use the instruments of dialogue,” he stressed.
Convinced that the elections in January “will be a starting point for a new Iraq,” the prelate observed that instead “Western newspapers and broadcasters are simply peddling propaganda and misinformation.”
“Iraqis are happy to be having elections and are looking forward to them because they will be useful for national unity,” he said. “Perhaps not everything will go exactly to plan, but, with time, things will improve. Finally Iraqis will be given the chance to choose.
“Why is there so much noise and debate coming out from the West when before, under Saddam, there were no free elections, but no one said a thing?”
Asked about attacks against Christian churches, Archbishop Sako explained that “Christians can be a tool for balance in Iraqi society and want to build a new and open Iraq which respects everyone’s rights.”
“The war in Iraq is not one of religion. And I would like to say this to terrorists … we are peaceful and in favor of dialogue,” he said. In fact, he emphasized, true Muslims have “condemned the attacks against Christians.”
Archbishop Sako criticized Europe’s absence from the scene.
“Europe is absent, it’s not out there; the United States is on its own,” he said.
Europe “must help the Iraqi government to control its borders to prevent the entry of foreign terrorists,” but “also provide economic help to encourage a new form of culture which is open to coexistence, the acceptance of others, respect for the human person and for other cultures,” the Chaldean prelate said.
“Europe must understand that there is no time to waste on marginal or selfish interests: The entire world needs peace,” he warned.
In the archbishop’s opinion, Europe must act “because Europeans know the Middle East better than the Americans, they are culturally closer to Arabs, they are very familiar with the Palestinian problem and the situation in the Middle East.”
“The Middle East needs help to rediscover peace and usher the Muslim countries into contemporary society, with its foundation of democracy and freedom. If the Iraqi model fails, it will be a disaster for everyone. These terrorist groups will gain strength around the world,” he said.
Adding that he is optimistic about the future of his country, the archbishop of Kirkuk asked Western Christians to pray “not only for their fellow Christians, but for all Iraqis.” Even “a hardened heart can be touched by God,” he said.