Archbishop in Iraq Calls for Peace and Stability

Suggests a Secular Iraq Could be a Solution

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Catholic leaders in Iraq have voiced hope and fear for elections taking place in the country today.

Wednesday’s elections for the 328 seats of the Iraqi Parliament are happening at a time of growing security concerns, with UN figures revealing that 2013 was the bloodiest year since 2008.

«We want our country to return to stable conditions where all can live in peace,” said Archbishop Amel Nona, the Chaldaic spiritual leader of Mosul in northern Iraq, in an interview with international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) last week.

According to Archbishop Nona, Christians have very fundamental concerns: «We want first and foremost in our country a genuine peace which respects human rights,” he said. Suggesting a solution, he said Iraq could be “a secular state.”

“By this I mean a constitution made for all citizens and not only for the majority,» he said.

Laws which respect human rights, guarantee equality, freedom, and human dignity will determine the future of Christians in the region, stressed Bishop Saad Sirop Hanna of the Chaldaic Patriarchate. He said people «should be able to live their lives without having to fear that they will become a target because of their Christianity.”

He noted that 11 years ago, Iraqis had to find an escape to the Iraq War and now they “fed up with what’s happening in their country,» particularly, “the precarious security situation, corruption, economic plight and emigration of highly trained people,” reported Aid to the Church in Need.

Bishop Hannah stressed the upcoming elections’ importance: «The eyes of the Iraqi people are fixed on these elections. For many, they provide a reason to hope for a better future.» Encouraging the faithful to vote, he said: “It is our task to strengthen the confidence of Christian citizens in government institutions and to improve these institutions in terms of human rights.»

Discussing who is on the list of those running, he noted the existence of Christian candidates. On one hand, he said, the lists included various individuals from among whom members would be elected to the parliamentary seats reserved under the quota arrangement for Christians, but on the other, Christians were also running on democratic and liberal lists composed of both Islamic and non-Islamic citizens.

Showing little optimism for parties’ being open to Christians’ concerns, he said «all non-Christian parties have their agenda which is dominated by ideological and religious precepts. These parties lack civic and democratic maturity.” He added, “They are so fixed on their own agenda that it’s difficult for them to reconcile it with the principles and interests of the Christian community.» (D.C.L.)

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