03/11/2014, 00.00
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Chaldean Patriarchate and Caritas Iraq aid Muslim families fleeing violence

by Joseph Mahmoud
A delegation led by Mar Sako visited the Sunni mosque of Umm al- Qura , west of the capital , and distributed food and medicine. His Beatitude expresses "solidarity" with the displaced from Fallujah and Ramadi who have fled from the al Qaeda militias. He invites all to pray to God "so the country may return to normal". Muslim leader : "Fraternity , characteristic of Iraqi Christians".

Baghdad ( AsiaNews) - "We have come to express our solidarity with our displaced brothers and sisters of Fallujah and Ramadi", and "help them in their suffering".  These are the words of His Beatitude Mar Louis Raphael I Sako describing the recent initiative promoted of the Chaldean Patriarchate , in collaboration with Caritas Iraq . On 9 March, a Christian delegation visited the Sunni mosque of Umm al- Qura , in the west of Baghdad. There they offered food aid, basic necessities and medicines to more than a thousand families of refugees , fleeing the sectarian violence that has bloodied Fallujah and Ramadi, both in the west of the country now under the control of al Qaeda. The Patriarch was accompanied by the auxiliary bishop of the capital Msgr. Shlemon Warduni, Fr. Pios Qasha, Fr. Albert Hisham and Nabeel Afram , director of the local branch of Caritas.

"We Christians - said Mar Sako - do not look at the person according to his ethnic or religious identity , but as someone in need to whom we must give a hand. We are men of peace, in this country where people emigrate in difficult circumstances". His Beatitude has also asked all those present to "pray to God for the country to return to normal, that its prestige be restored and that the government be able to protect everyone".

Illustrating the meaning of charitable initiative promoted by the leaders of the Chaldean Patriarchate in collaboration with Caritas Iraq , Mar Sako then added that it " expresses national unity , humanity and citizenship that bind us to one another " . " Our homes and our churches are open to all - he continued - we are in the season of Lent and this act is an act of gratuitous aid to our Muslim brothers and sisters in need." Our Lord Jesus Christ , concluded the Patriarch , "taught us solidarity with concrete actions , not just words".

The Christian delegation was welcomed to the most important Sunni Muslim place of worship in the capital by the Islamic leader Ali Mahmood Ahmed Al- Falahi , a member of the Sunni Endowments in Baghdad. Thanking the Chaldean Patriarch , the delegation and all Christians for "this fraternal initiative" , he added that the spirit of mutual aid "is the hallmark of Iraqi Christians". "It is a visible expression of brotherhood - said the Muslim leader - and solidarity", who hoped that Iraqis "remain brothers and sisters who are able to love one another". Part of this effort is a project to create a commission for dialogue and discussion between the Sunni Endowments and the Catholic leadership of Iraq.

General elections are due to be held in April and the population fears a rise in attacks. 2013 was the most violent year in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, surpassing even the terrible violence of the biennium 2006-2007. According to government figures, in the month of February over a thousand people were killed in attacks aimed at government targets or Shiites . The Christian community  has suffered the consequences of violence in the country.  Before the American invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein, the faithful were more than one million but today, according to recent estimates, there are only about 300 thousand.



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