11/25/2016, 14.09
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For Chaldean Patriarch, the terrible attack on Shia pilgrims is a sign of a country sliding into the abyss

An Islamic State militant drove a truck bomb against buses with pilgrims, killing about a hundred Shias marking Arbaeen. For Mar Sako, condemning such “endless violence" is not enough; "effective and shared action” is needed. Two priests are ordained today in Baghdad, a sign "of the Church's vitality".

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – A group of Shia pilgrims was attacked yesterday in Hillah, a city located near the holy city of Karbala and Baghdad.

This was a "terrible" attack in the context of "endless violence" that causes "hundreds of deaths" in Iraq, a country that has fallen "into an abyss", Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis I Sako told AsiaNews.

"From the war against Daesh to the attacks, every day is a body count,” the head of the Iraqi Church said. “Now such deaths have become an everyday event, to which we and the world are slowly getting used to, as if it were routine."

The latest death toll in the attack claimed by the Islamic State (IS) against Shia pilgrims has climbed to almost 100 people with dozens wounded. An IS militant drove a truck bomb near a group of seven buses carrying Iraqis, Iranians and Bahrainis. Local sources said that the explosion was very powerful and devastated the surrounding area.

Iraqi authorities had imposed tight security ahead of Arbaeen celebrations, which mark the end of the 40 days of mourning for the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of Muhammad, who died in 680 AD at the Battle of Karbala. Some 17 to 20 million people came to the Iraqi city, holy to Shias, for the occasion.

Despite the security arrangements, the Islamic State, currently involved in defending its Mosul stronghold against an offensive launched by the army and Kurdish Peshmerga on 17 October, has managed to strike with a suicide bomber.

A few hours after the attack suicide, Amaq, a pro-Jihadi news agency, claimed responsibility for the massacre in Hillah, 120 km south-east of Baghdad.

From the "tragedy of the refugees from Mosul and the thousands of homes destroyed by Jihadis" to the attacks "that strike Baghdad and other parts of the country," Iraq is going through "an endless tragedy" that is affecting "innocent people," Patriarch Sako said.

"We are facing a world and people without values,” he explained. Striking "pilgrims returning from a prayer," as well as attacking "churches and mosques” are the symbol of endless "barbarism".

For His Beatitude, these "extreme acts" aim to "sow hatred and divisions, as well as crush a nation and its social fabric." Faced with all this, he added, the need for reconciliation, encounter between Christians and Muslims, between Sunnis and Shias" is that more urgent.

Reacting to the event, Shia and Sunni leaders "have condemned the attack", the Chaldean Patriarch noted, but now "it is no longer enough to condemn”. What is needed is “effective and shared action. We must change the mind-set and culture, and engage in social and educational reform that goes against this violent ideology. "

"The Church’s response to the logic of death and destruction is prayers and hope,” Mar Sako said. “Thus, better still, today we celebrate the ordination of two new priests in Baghdad. This is a sign of the Church's vitality and a ray of hope against the abyss of Jihadi terror."

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