This morning, the Chaldean Patriarch visited Baghdad’s Karrada district, scene of the latest Jihadi attack. So far the death toll stands at 165 with at least 225 wounded. Other sources claim more than 200 deaths. Government unity is needed to counter extremist violence. The Muslim world must realise that IS is a cancer eating away at Islam itself. Pope Francis prays for the victims and their families.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Islamic State (IS) group is no longer thinking about “geography", about controlling a territory, because it has "lost" militarily. Now its goal "is to hit everywhere, reaping as many victims as possible," spreading a message that "the whole world is its domain. This ideology is a real atomic bomb,” said Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis Sako speaking to AsiaNews.
This morning, the prelate visited the scene of "massacre," as the patriarch himself calls the week-end’s bombing. "I saw parents look for their children in the rubble,” he said. “They were desperate because they could not find them. I lit a few candles, then I prayed with them, with these families, condemning this massacre against humanity, against religion . . . ".
Yesterday, Pope Francis expressed his sympathy the the victims of the twin bombing in Iraq (and the attack in Bangladesh). During the Angelus in St Peter's Square, the pontiff expressed his "closeness to the families of all the people killed and wounded in the attack that took place yesterday in Dhaka, and the one that occurred in Baghdad". Hence, “Let us pray to the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that the Church may never lack in generous hearts, who work to bring the Heavenly Father’s love and tenderness to everyone.”
Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has declared three days of national mourning following the Saturday night car bomb that killed at least 165 people and wounded 225 more. IS, which claimed responsibility, is believed to be behind the attack.
A refrigerator van packed with explosives blew up around midnight near the popular al-Hadi Centre in Baghdad’s Karrada district. Although it was late, the area was crowded with people shopping for eid al-fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan tomorrow.
Security sources report that whole families were killed, and that some people were even buried before their identities could be determined.
A second bomb exploded shortly afterwards in another predominantly Shia area north of the capital, killing another five people.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the area on Sunday but his convoy was greeted by angry crowds.
His office announced tighter security measures, including improved vehicle inspection systems be installed at entry points into Baghdad and in other provinces.
The Chaldean patriarch told AsiaNews said that he was “affected and saddened" by the attack. He understands “the anger of the population against the government and the authorities."
“I told the country’s leaders to put aside personal interests and boost unity and national cohesion. You need to protect the lives and property of citizens."
"I heard to the pain of the people, their disappointment. Now it's up to the government and politicians to promote reconciliation, to go beyond personal interests, and a sectarian culture of violence and revenge. The people want peace and help. "
In light of the bloodshed, the Chaldean Patriarch hopes to see Muslims come to grips with the situation. "The Muslim world must condemn this ideology,” he said, “and seek practical means to overcome it. Moderate teachings of Islam are needed, ones that practice tolerance and coexistence, cooperation and respect for human rights."
“A change within the same Muslim religion” must occur “because terrorism and violence are a cancer for Islam itself."
Is propaganda claims that it “is cleansing the world and that everyone is under their rule,” the patriarch said. “They want to provoke, cause panic, and make everyone feel insecure, everywhere.”
In the coming hours, the patriarchate is expected to release a message to "our Muslim brothers for the end of Ramadan". Meanwhile, the Iraqi Church is continuing to help displaced people.
“I sent US$ 50,000 to refugee families from Fallujah and Anbar Iraqi,” Mgr Sako said. “We have helped at least 2,000 Muslim families.”
“Now we are waiting for Mosul, where we must show our solidarity as well.” (DS)