The Pope cried out against “violence”, “extremisms”, “factions” and “intolerances” in his first speech in Iraq, and urged to rebuild the country, a mosaic of cultures that has been destroyed for years by the war and the jihadist terrorism, from the “frank and sincere discussion”.
“That particular interests cease, those external interests that are indifferent to the local population,” asked the Pontiff in the meeting with the authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps in a room of the Baghdad Presidential Palace.
This is the Pope’s first trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic that will be marked by the tensions between US and pro-Iranian troops and for the pandemic restrictions.
A few days ago another episode of violence took place in the country when a dozen of shells hit a barracks where Spanish, American and Iraqi soldiers reside and a US military official died of cardiac arrest.
In his address, the Pope reminded all those who “due to violence, persecution and terrorism have lost family and loved ones, home and essential goods.”
But he also referred to all the people “who struggle every day seeking safety and means of moving forward, while unemployment and poverty increase “.
Likewise, he asked that a voice be given “to the little ones, the poor, the simple people who want to live, work and pray in peace”, after praising the efforts that the country is making to try to lay the foundations of a society democratic.
Along these lines, he pointed out that it is essential that “no one is considered a second class citizen“in clear support for ethnic and religious minorities living in Iraq.
In fact, he recalled in particular the Yazidis, “innocent victims of senseless and inhumane barbarism, persecuted and killed for their religious beliefs, whose very identity and survival have been put in danger.”
Iraq also had one of the oldest communities in Christendom, which has suffered a reduction of more than 80% in the last two decades. In 2003, before the US invasion, Iraq had about 1.5 million Christians. Today there are only about 250,000 left. The Chaldean Catholic Church is the majority.
In an analysis of the recent history of the country, the Pope recalled that Iraq has suffered the disasters of wars, the scourge of terrorism and sectarian conflicts often based “on a fundamentalism that it cannot accept the peaceful coexistence of various ethnic and religious groups, of diverse ideas and cultures. “
“All this has brought death, destruction, and still visible ruins, and not only on a material level: the damage is even more profound if you think about the heart wounds of many people and communities, which will take years to heal,” he said.
He has also called attention to the role that the international community has in promoting peace in this land and throughout the Middle East: “As we have seen during the long conflict in the neighboring nation of Syria – the beginning of which is fulfilled in these days and ten years – the challenges increasingly challenge the entire human family “.
For the Pope, Iraq is called “to show everyone, especially in the Middle East, that differences, rather than giving rise to conflicts, must cooperate harmoniously in civil life“.
In this regard, he thanked the humanitarian efforts of the Catholic agencies that provide assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons and those who have difficulties in returning to their own homes, providing food, water, housing, medical and health care in the country. , as well as programs aimed at reconciliation and peace building.
Thus, he urged the international community not to withdraw its support but to continue working “in a spirit of common responsibility with local authorities, without imposing political or ideological interests.”
The Pope, who landed in Iraq this Friday where he will stay until next Monday, alluded to politicians asking them to “combat the plague of corruption, abuses of power and illegality”, major problems that impede the proper functioning of the country.
He also insisted on the need to “build justice, increase honesty and transparency, and strengthen competent institutions.”