11/28/2017, 10.08
IRAQ
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Iraq, hundreds of Christian archaeological sites at risk of government indifference

Over 400 places of historical and cultural interest could disappear due to abandonment, indifference or impotence. Christian Parliamentarian: Ministry lacking funding, more coordination between institutions is needed. Ministry laments lack of resources and armed guards. The struggle against the traffic of goods and antiquities continues.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - Hundreds of Christian archaeological sites scattered between the governorates of Kerbala and Najaf, Iraq, are progressively deteriorating and are in danger of disappearing due to the lack of interest and impotence of central Baghdad authorities.

The alarm has been launched by Christian Parliamentarian Yonadam Kanna, leader of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, and a member of the Parliamentary Labor and Social Affairs Committee, denouncing the new attack on the artistic, historical and cultural heritage of the Iraqi community.

The Christian leader points his finger at the federal Ministry for Culture and Tourism, which in spite of the numerous acts of vandalism and corruption has done nothing to save the more than 400 archaeological sites from ruin. These centers, the parliamentarian adds, are to be considered "the center of Christianity of the Middle East" and are now "in danger of disappearing." "These archaeological sites - he continues - hese archaeological sites began to disappear because of the lack of financial allocation by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and local governments to maintain them". To try to respond to the emergency, he assured that " We will increase coordination with the concerned parties to preserve the effects of the Christian religion in those provinces." 

The Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Qais Hussein responded to the appeal launched by the Christian politician stating that the ministry "does not have enough funds" to preserve all the archaeological sites. They require the protection of armed guards in addition to the "protective barriers" to protect them from devastation, at a cost so far that the government and local governments have not been able - or unwilling - to support. Hussein adds, there are "dozens" of situations similar to this and no money so "the ministry cannot fulfil its duties."

The Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako has intervened on several occasions, launching common appeals to defend what is part of Iraqi cultural heritage, not just Christian heritage. The last of these dates back to December last year, when he addressed the "International Conference on the Safeguarding of Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas" in Abu Dhabi. On this occasion, he augured the creation of a "safe haven" for the preservation of the cultural heritage at risk, devastated by the Islamic State (IS, former Isis). Earlier, when he was still Archbishop of Kirkuk, he had denounced the dangers of cultural and archaeological legacies in Iraq, a "universal good" to be safeguarded "more than oil".

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has relaunched the fight against the smuggling of artifacts and antiquities, one of the main sources of livelihood - along with oil - used in recent years by the Jihadists of the IS to support and fund their war. In these hours, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the recovery of over 140 pieces sold to the black market, headed for Europe or other Arab countries. Part of this material is the result of the diplomatic work of the executive with the Western Chancelleries and was not delivered to the Iraqi National Museum.

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