Baghdad (AsiaNews) - "These projects and initiatives in the humanitarian field help spread a spirit of cooperation among all citizens. They also make it clear that Christians are true members of this country, who want to do good for everyone," said His Beatitude Mar Raphael Louis Sako I as he spoke to AsiaNews about the spirit that led to the establishment of a medical clinic in Baghdad, strongly supported by the Chaldean Patriarchate and open to Christians, Muslims and members of other religious faiths, without distinction or discrimination.
On Monday, the leaders of the Iraqi Church inaugurated the St Joseph's Hospital, which is located in Baladiyat, East Baghdad. During the ceremony, Mar Sako cut the ribbon in the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio Mgr Giorgio Lingua, bishops, priests, nuns, Muslims clerics, representatives of the central government as well as ordinary citizens, curious to see the new facility up front.
The clinic is located in a mostly Shia area of the capital. Muslim religious leaders took the opportunity of the opening ceremony to thank Christians, emphasising the role of the Church "in building the country and spreading the principles of peace and coexistence among all citizens."
In this regard, the Chaldean Patriarch said, "Muslims have already come to realise the spirit of the openness that Christians have towards all religions, especially Muslims". In concluding, His Beatitude noted that the clinic is "open to all without exception."
During the ceremony (picture from the Chaldean Patriarchate website), Mgr Shlemon Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, explained the various departments, thanking those who "have actively contributed" to the facility, in particular the Endowment Office for Christians, Yazidi and Sabians.
Through this initiative, the Iraqi Catholic Church wants to create a space "open to all religions" in "the service of society."
The facility was initially designed to provide care and serve as a retirement home for the elderly when it opened in 2010, but that proved unsatisfactory Therefore, it was decided to turn it into a real hospital.
Sources in the Chaldean Patriarchate said that only the outpatient clinic is open, but at present, there are no accommodations for patients, only specialised areas for the medical staff. Eventually though, the whole facility should be up and running.
Local Muslims reacted positively to the initiative, with positive comments for a project that is "vital" for local residents.
Directed by Ghaleb Mansour, the hospital also has a small but pleasant church for religious services. It is here that the opening ceremony was held.
St Joseph's Hospital is a sign of "hope" and "humanity" in a country shaken by acts of violence that have reached a worrying level in 2014. Yesterday alone, more than 70 people died in a series of bombings in various parts of Iraq.
The violence has now reached the level of 2005 and 2006. In 2013, the official death toll stood at 8,868. So far this year, almost 300 people have been killed.