08/04/2014, 00.00
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Baghdad Patriarch calls for brotherhood and solidarity, the only way to overcome Iraq's tragedy

by Joseph Mahmoud

Mar Raphael Louis Sako issues a message for the feast of the Transfiguration, which is also World Day of Prayer for Iraq. His Beatitude focuses on Pope Francis' call for "brotherhood" to transform "hearts and minds". As young people in Baghdad pray for Mosul, ISIS continues its advance in the North. UN sources report that July was a "tragic month" in terms of dead and wounded. Mar Sako offers prayer for peace.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - In Iraq today we need "brotherhood and solidarity" in order for "our troubled nation" to be able to "overcome the current crisis," which has "thrown terrible sufferings and insurmountable privations at thousands of innocent people in great difficulty," said Raphael I Louis Sako Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad in a message sent to AsiaNews and published for World Day of Prayer for Iraq.

The initiative, launched by Mar Sako in cooperation with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), is scheduled for 6 August, feast day of the Transfiguration.

In his message, the patriarch focuses particularly on Pope Francis' call for "brotherhood" in the context of the World Day of Peace 2014.

In his message, His Beatitude joins "those who will extend their hands to the Lord, calling for peace in Iraq" and calls upon us to join "our hearts and voices before the Lord."

The Chaldean Patriarch notes that the feast of the Transfiguration "is the day of the transformation of hearts and minds in the encounter with God's light that is emitted upon all mankind."

For this reason, he hopes that "the light of Tabor" will "fill with love and hope the hearts of those who suffer" and "inspire the leaders of this country to sacrifice personal interests for the common good."

The Chaldean Patriarchate is currently promoting several initiatives for peace and solidarity with Iraq and its people, battered by a decade of war and now helpless victim of the advance of Islamist militias who have been capturing increasingly large portions of Iraq's territory.

With the United Nations warning that up to 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, its special envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said that a "humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar". Equally, "The United Nations has grave concerns for the physical safety" of civilians.

ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) forces are moving towards areas occupied by Kurds, which so far have managed to repel the attacks of extremists.

In a few hours, after Zummar and Sinjar the jihadists took control of Wana, also in Nineveh province, about forty kilometres north of Mosul.

Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul was just the first to fall to Islamist forces, who set up a caliphate based on a strict interpretation of Sharia, forcing half a million people, both Christians and Muslims, to flee.

The Ain Zalah oil field and the nearby refinery also fell into militia hands.

According to UN estimates, July was a tragic month for Iraq, particularly for civilians. Overall, 1,737 people were killed in acts of terrorism and violence, whilst 1,978 others were injured.

Meanwhile, the central government seems unable to deal with the threat, riven as it is by feuds over Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's leadership.

In a context of terror and violence, the Chaldean Church has responded with initiatives of peace and prayer in recent days with the Chaldean meeting a large gathering of young people in solidarity "with the people of Mosul".

Saturday morning, Mar Sako celebrated Mass (pictured) with Catholic youth groups in the capital, Baghdad, at the church of St Joseph in Karrada."

Auxiliary Bishop Mgr Shlemon Warduni, Mgr Saad Hanna and Iraqi Environment Minister Sargon Lazar were present along with the patriarch.

Mar Sako stressed the role youth play in peace building and urged the faithful to "look to Jesus" and "never give up" despite tragic circumstances.

The Patriarch also renewed his call for prayer in support of the families of Mosul and peace in the country. Here is his 'Prayer for Peace in Iraq':

"Lord, the wound in our nation is deep and the suffering of Christians is great and frightens us.

Thus, we ask you Lord to protect our lives, give us the courage and the patience to continue to bear witness to our Christian values ​​with confidence and hope. Lord, peace is the foundation of all life.

Grant us peace and stability to live together with each other without fear and anguish, but with dignity and joy.

To you praise and glory forever."

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