Baghdad (AsiaNews) – "Explosions, bomb attacks, and violence occurred every day this week in Baghdad. We can hear bomb blasts every day, even near the Patriarch’s building. Every day, there are dead and wounded; more than a hundred on the day that ended Ramadan. The situation is really heart-rending,” said Mgr Basil Yaldo, Baghdad’s auxiliary bishop, a close associate of Patriarch Raphael I Louis Sako,
“The future is uncertain, dark,” he said. “No one knows what will happen because every day there is a new episode of violence." Ordinary Iraqis “seem to have become accustomed to all the blood. Incidents are no longer even reported in the news. They are considered normal . . . As soon as bomb goes off, people are back in the streets as if nothing had happened."
In recent weeks, a new wave of violence has hit the country, which appears to be increasingly splitting along ethnic and confessional lines. Shias, Sunnis, Arabs, Turkmen, and Kurds are involved in a power struggle with guns, bombs and bloody attacks.
For its part, the government seems unable to develop its plans for unity. And progressively, there is talk of dividing a country on the brink of collapse along confessional lines since it has lost its sense of nationhood.
Still, for Baghdad’s auxiliary bishop, the Christian presence, despite the losses, appears to embody a message of peace, harmony and unity. "As Christians, our work is to reconcile and unite,” he explained, “because we do not have specific interests or a thirst for power. We just want peace and coexistence.”
“Often Patriarch Sako calls on the various parties to meet and discuss genuine national reconciliation. In some cases, the answer is positive because Sunnis and Shias have confidence in us Christians." Unfortunately, "each side, each party, has its own idea about what to do. Even those, like the government, who do not want divisions fail to build a true path towards unity."
As this goes on, the plight of Christian refugees continues. For more than a year, many of them have been living in camps after they had to flee their homes in cities like Mosul and the towns and villages on the Nineveh plain following their seizure by Islamic State fighters.
Mgr Yaldo admits that “We still do not know what will be their fate, and we have no answers for their questions. The situation seems to be getting worse, but we Christians encourage each other, giving each other faith and hope".
In spite of the bleak picture, there are some small signs of hope, including preparations "for a solemn prayer for peace in the country,” said the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad.
Right now, peace in Iraq is the special intention of every Mass. “Even today, during a Mass held in a church in the capital for the First Communion of 28 children, we prayed for peace,” Mgr Yaldo said.
In all, 182 boys and girls received their First Communion in the past few days. For the bishop, “This is a small sign of hope that bears witness to a community that is very much alive."
At present, “it is very hot in Baghdad, over 50 degrees Celsius. There is no power and it is hard to find somewhere to be cool.”
"Children only dream about peace,” Mgr Yaldo noted. For them, matters “are simple. They want to play with their friends, go on outings, or hang out in streets. In short, they want to have fun but they cannot do it because of fear, fear of bombs, fear of explosions, and fear of violence.”
“For us, we try to teach them to be tools of peace, not to use violence, and look to the future with hope and confidence." (DS)