Kirkuk (AsiaNews) -
"The violence is linked to sectarian and confessional tensions, the attacks
are of a political nature, I do not think they involve the local mafia or
terrorist groups close to Islamic fundamentalism", says Msgr. Louis Sako,
archbishop of Kirkuk in northern Iraq commenting on the wave of attacks that bloodied
the country yesterday, causing nearly one hundred dead and over 350 injured in
20 separate episodes. The attacks are coupled with the death penalty imposed in
absentia on Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, for organizing death squads
responsible for at least 150 killings. "The attacks - adds the prelate speaking
to AsiaNews - are politically motivated, with characteristics in common with
developments in Syria and the events in the Middle East". In this bleak framework,
plagued by a never-ending spiral of violence, comes the Pope's visit to Lebanon September
14 to 16, which for the Church is now "an opportunity to encourage the
building of bridges of dialogue and peace, especially with Muslims . Though, at
the moment, everything appears difficult, if not almost blocked by the
political situation. "
Yesterday a series of attacks targeted different districts in Baghdad's Shiite majority areas, in response to the death penalty imposed on Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. It was one of the "bloodiest" days of the year, with more than 100 deaths across the country in addition at least 350 injured in provisional estimates. The attacks swept the capital, Kirkuk in the north, Amara in the south-east, Dujail north of Baghdad, Nasiriyah in the south of the country and other minor episodes in Baquba, Basra, Samarra and Tuzkhurmatu.
The violence erupted not long after the condemning in absentia for Vice-President al-Hashemi, leader of the Sunni minority, accused of organizing death squads responsible for at least 150 victims. Until last December, when charges were laid, he was the political point of reference for the Sunni faction within the Iraqi government, supported by a large Shia majority. He took refuge in the autonomous region of Kurdistan in the north, then fled to Qatar and finally Turkey. During the trial in the capital, some close collaborators admitted that in the past the vice-president himself ordered dozens of murders. Critics speak of "politically motivated charges", but AsiaNews sources say that "there is evidence that appears to prove he is not innocent."
"At the root of these attacks - said Msgr. Sako - is a strong tension between the Shiite majority and the Sunni faction and this violence is clearly sectarian and confessional in nature." In Kirkuk alone, the archbishop continued, there were four targeted killings of innocent people. "The aim - says the prelate - is to destabilize the country" because "the central government lacks unity and political force even within the same Shiite majority. There is great tension, there is no dialogue between groups and greater barriers are emerging ".
In fact, the archbishop of Kirkuk observes that the Middle East "is like a volcano" and the effects of the crisis affecting the countries that form the region affect even Iraq. In this context, Benedict XVI's visit to Lebanon becomes even more important: "We are waiting for words of hope from the Pope - says the Archbishop - and encouragement for the Church, which must build bridges of peace and dialogue with everyone, but especially with Muslims" . He confirms that "the exodus of the Christian community" Iraq "continues and affects areas where they live in peace. Little is being done to help them to remain in the country of origin, rather they are being encouraged to leave."
"We need a real dialogue - Msgr. Sako concludes - between the Churches of the Middle East and serious and deep analysis of the reality, providing solutions and future plans, we need concrete steps to restore confidence and a vision of the future of Christians in region and the Middle East. "