Patriarch Sako hopes Iraq will not become a war zone

Iraqi counter-terrorism forces in front of the US embassy in Baghdad (AFP or licensors)

After the U.S. strike in Baghdad that killed Iranian General Soleimani, the Catholic Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon appeals for all parties involved to dialogue.

Patriarch Louis Rafaël Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, issued a strong appeal on Saturday in the wake of the U.S. drone strike in Baghdad which killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, and the protests which followed.

Day of tension

The Patriarch’s appeal followed a day in which thousands of persons took the streets of Iraq’s capital mourning the death of General Soleimani in Baghdad and shouting anti-U.S. slogans. Toward evening, one rocket hit Baghdad’s Green Zone, a heavily fortified area near the U.S. Embassy. Another hit the nearby neighbourhood of Jadriya, and two others were directed toward Balad air base. According to an Iraqi military statement, no one has been reported killed as a result of these rocket attacks and no one has claimed responsibility.

In a tweet on Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump warned Iran that the U.S. has already selected 52 sites that will be attacked “very fast and very hard”, “if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets”. The number 52 is symbolic of the 52 U.S. hostages held in Iran between 1979 and 1981.

Appeal for dialogue

Such was the context in which the Catholic Chaldean Patriarch launched his appeal:

“Iraqis are still shocked by what happened last week. It is deplorable that our country should be transformed into a place where scores are settled, rather than being a sovereign nation, capable of protecting its own land, its own wealth, its own citizens. In the face of this delicate and dangerous situation, we implore all the parties involved to exercise moderation, to demonstrate wisdom, to act reasonably and to sit down at the negotiating table to dialogue and seek understanding so that this country might be spared unimaginable consequences.

“We lift our prayer to Almighty God so that He might grant Iraq and the region that peaceful, stable, safe ‘normal life’ that we desire.”

We all need peace

The Auxiliary Bishop of the Patriarchate of Babylon, Bishop Mar Shlemon Warduni said in an interview with Vatican News that a new war in Iraq would be terrible for the population and for the Christian community. It is always the weakest who pay the consequences of armed conflict, he said.

Yesterday, Pope Francis prayed for peace in a tweet: “We must believe that others need peace just as much as we do. Peace will not be obtained unless it is hoped for. Let us ask the Lord for the gift of peace!”