Monk Pleads for Return of Power to Iraqis

Superior General of an Ancient Chaldean Order

BAGHDAD, Iraq, NOV. 16, 2003 ( A Catholic representative expressed his gratitude for Iraq’s liberation from Saddam Hussein, and appealed to the United States to speed up the turning over of power to Iraqis.

“No state, a nation left at the mercy of terrorist groups, and its people dying of hunger!” was how Iraqi’s situation was described by Father Denka Toma, superior general of the Antonian Order of St. Ormizda of the Chaldeans, a religious order in the country founded in the seventh century.

Father Toma, 42, is head of a community which in Iraq counts 45 monks devoted to religious contemplative and active life and as well as pastoral duties.

The priest commented on the situation in Iraq the day after last Wednesday’s car bomb attack in Nasiriyah.

“Today I cannot be optimistic,” he told the Fides agency. “Everything depends on the United States, which has absolute power for the good or worse of our nation. We are uncertain, we stand at the center of a ford. The dictatorship is ended; we have yet to enter a new political season. We must find the way out of this tragic situation in which terrorism and insecurity move freely. We pray that nothing worse will happen.”

After all these attacks, what should change in the U.S. policy in Iraq?

The superior replied: “The United States, after demobilizing the Iraqi police force, should put security into the hands of Iraqis or at least involve them. They are close to the local mentality, they know the people and the places.”

“Most people are not satisfied with the situation,” he continued. “They are grateful to the Americans for liberating Iraq from the dictatorship, but today, six months after the war ended, the people lament lack of social, civil and economic reconstruction. They are beginning to think that the real aim of the Americans was to take control of Iraq’s oil. The people are exhausted by three wars in 20 years and 12 years of sanctions.”

Some observers say the American administration should hand power over to Iraq’s interim Governing Council.

But Father Toma said: “The council cannot do much because it is under the control of the U.S. Its members obey the Americans and they are Iraqi businessmen who have lived abroad. For the people they are ‘foreigners.’ In this situation it will be difficult for the council to assume full power and succeed in governing the country.”

The priest said that the Chaldean Catholic Church is offering hope amid Iraq’s crisis.

“In all these years of war, violence, hunger, we have remained at the side of the people and we remain today,” Father Toma said. “The Chaldean Catholic Church is support and comfort for all, also for many non-Christians. Today the Chaldean monks are a real consolation for the people; without them many more would have emigrated.”

He added: “The monks visit families, they pray with the young people, they teach children, giving great testimony of faith. Every Chaldean Christian family prays every day that God will grant our country a future of peace.”

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