On the vigil of the vote in the Autonomous Region, Patriarch Cardinal Louis Raphaël I Sako, speaks to ACN about hope, future and expectations of Christians in Iraq
by Daniele Piccini
«From this election we expect a positive political change», says Cardinal Louis Raphaël I Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and Head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, to Aid to the Church in Need referring to the General elections scheduled to take place in Iraqi Kurdistan next Sunday, 30 September, to elect Parliament. «Cooperation between central Iraqi Government and authorities of Kurdistan is very important. If it works, the whole country works. If it does not work, many complications arise», says Patriarch Sako, elevated to cardinal by Pope Francis last 29 June.
«We need an increase of the employment for the youth. We need further help to rebuild the villages in the Nineveh Plains, destroyed by ISIS. We need that the Government increases and improves its services. Finally, we want to put an end to militia and corruption. We want to build together a democratic Iraq and to strengthen peaceful coexistence. We do have hope because things are just changing in Iraq. The election of 118 new deputies in the Iraqi Parliament is a very good sign. Christians in Iraq expect also an improvement of the security. But about the issue “security”, I have to admit, things have been just getting better in the last time».
About 20.000 Christian families left their villages in August 2014 and found a shelter in Kurdistan. They have stayed in refugees camps for three years. About 9.000 families have just returned to their houses. «We hope that a positive result of the election day in Kurdistan – Cardinal Sako adds – can persuade many other Christians to stay in Iraq. I think it is a very difficult challenge because many of them left Iraq and are living now in Western Countries. Their children go to school and they are progressively integrating in the society. Even if the parents would like to return, they probably won´t because of the future of their children. I think, it would be a good result, if we persuade Iraqi Christians, who are still living in Iraq as “internal refugees”, not to leave. For this purpose, we need to rebuild as soon as possible destroyed houses, schools, churches and infrastructures».
Permanent conflicts between political and religious parties poison life and atmosphere. «Furthermore, conflicts between Curds and Arabs, who want to occupy the Nineveh Plains, do not encourage Iraqi Christians to stay. The street from Badnaya and Teleskuf, for example, is closed. We have money to rebuild the houses there, but families cannot get in. Besides, people here need jobs. We could improve agriculture and industry in the Nineveh Plains and we could also start many other projects. We can found a polytechnic school to teach trades to young people. We have to face many challenges and we expect that the new central Government and the election in Kurdistan will bring positive solutions. Otherwise, people will lose hope and trust. This must not happen! ».