BAGHDAD, FEB. 10, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Results of the recent local Iraqi elections include the defeat of extremist religious groups, and the possible return home of Christian exiles, said an auxiliary bishop of Baghdad.
Bishop Andraos Abouna affirmed that the results of the recent election could help the country to bring the country “back on track.”
The Jan. 31 elections in 10 of the 14 provinces in the country signal hope for the Christian community in Iraq, he suggested. The Christians, now numbering under 300,000 people, had a population of 1.4 million only two decades ago.
The count on Feb. 5, with 90% of votes weighed in, showed that the Islamic religious parties had suffered losses. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s party, on the other hand, won a significant part of the vote. Official results are expected at the end of the month.
Bishop Abouna reported to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that this news “delighted” the Christians who were forced to emigrate due to sectarianism and the violence of the post-Saddam stage.
In an interview with ACN on Monday in Baghdad, the prelate said: “It is a very good result, especially at this stage in the country’s development. It will help put Iraq back on track.”
Underlining the peaceful environment during and after the elections, he affirmed, “This will make [Christians] think differently and may encourage them to start returning.”
The bishop explained that many Christians believe that “a more secular government will favor minority religious groups” more than religious parties would.
Although Maliki and his party have “strong religious leanings, they have pursued a non-sectarian agenda.”
Bishop Abouna said, “Everyone agrees that during the last five years when religious parties have been strong nothing happened.” He spoke about the security failures in the country when Sunni and Shiite “hardliners” dominated the political sphere.
He continued, “Iraqis have realized that the best way to help the country is by keeping religion and politics separate.”