Baghdad (AsiaNews) – “We hope President Barack Obama will govern with the good of all peoples in mind. An invitation that we also send to the world’s political leaders that they may strive for peace, prosperity and love between all nations, putting aside divisions and partisan interests”. This is the wish expressed by Msgr. Shlemon Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, to AsiaNews following Obama’s election victory. Referring to the future of Iraq, the prelate has invited the newly elected Head of State to “safeguard the good of all”, not only by working to “win the war”, but also to “bring a stable and lasting peace”, because only then can a “true victory” be claimed, not only in Iraq, but in all “those areas of conflict”.
The auxiliary bishop of Baghdad had far harsher words for the “slashed representation” of minorities in the upcoming provincial elections. On Monday 3 November the Parliament approved a resolution, by 106 votes out of 150, to reserve only 6 seats for all minorities: three for Christians (Baghdad, Nineveh and Bassora), one each for Yazidis and Shabaks in Nineveh and the last to the e Sabei, in the capital. “It is pittance – denounces Msgr. Warduni – but we don’t want it. We want equal rights”.
The Chaldean bishop recalls the battle launched by the Church “for the reinstatement of article 50 of the electoral law”, which would have guaranteed 15 seats (out of a total of 440) to minorities, 13 to Christians, one to the Shabaks and the last to the Yazidis. “We met with Premier al-Maliki, the president and the Muslim religious leaders among them the great Ayatollah al Sistani, the Sheiks and tribal chiefs. All of them promised the article would be reintroduced based upon the principal, enshrined in the constitution that all Iraqis are equal and enjoy equal rights. Evidently they preferred to give us this pittance; but we won’t accept it, we want equal rights”.
The patriarchal vicar states that “it is not right that they continue to speak of minorities”, because they are in reality “different parts of the one Iraq”, which must work together to “transform the desire for democracy into a concrete project”; he emphasises the role of the Christian community in the rebuilding of the country, particularly its “precious contribution in terms of the spreading of culture, in education and formation, in social work and in healthcare”, in the midst of very real “dangers, threats and persecution”. A slaughter that for too long has unfolded in silence, thanks to the behaviour of the “European Union, the United States, the parliament and the international community, all of whom stood by without raising a finger to help”.
“In October in Mosul alone – continues Msgr. Warduni – 2500 families were forced to flee, 14 people were killed and three homes destroyed. Despite all of this there are some small signs of hope: thanks to police and army intervention the situation has changed and over the past few days over 500 families have returned to the city, while others are preparing to return”. The prelate spoke of some positive elements for Christians in Mosul: “the close bond between the Church and the community, who thank the priests and bishops for their work; the solidarity with the Muslims, who help the Christians bringing them food and who ask those families not to flee; the friendships born between the young people of those two communities, who today greet and speak to each other, something that was impossible in the past; the governments response, their partial answer to our cries for help”. Many aspects however remain unresolved, among them the “drama of death and pain of our families” who wait for compensation for the raids carried out against Christians that saw “guns and rifles pointed to the heads of small children” and the sense of “latent fear” which pervades the “future of so many people”. (DS)