Iraqi archbishop optimistic about election’s consequences for Christians

Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk.
Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk.

.- Almost all Catholics who fled Mosul in the run-up to the March 7 election have returned home, according to the latest reports. The Archbishop of Kirkuk said he was “very optimistic” that security would improve and minority groups, including Christians, would have a bigger voice because of the election’s outcome.

Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need on Monday, Archbishop Louis Sako said the uncertain situation of Iraq’s Christians looked set to improve regardless of the outcome of the elections, whose results are expected by month’s end.

“The elections were carried out very well. During the campaign period, the political parties debated their programs in a very civilized way,” he told ACN from Kirkuk.

“The last election in 2005 was much more sectarian. Now people have chosen more secular parties, not like last time. Whatever happens, it will be a good result. I am very optimistic about that.”

The latest indications suggest a victory for former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. During his time in power from 2004-2005, the archbishop said he was “decisive” during the violence in Fallujah and Najaf.

“He imposed the law and the army was able to help stabilize the security situation,” the prelate explained.

Even if the present Prime Minister Nouri Malaki wins, Archbishop Sako said, “it will be okay and things will change. People are tired of violence and they are determined to see an improvement.”

He emphasized the involvement of candidates from diverse political and religious backgrounds. He was pleased that at least five Christians had been elected to parliament.

According to ACN, the latest reports indicate that Mosul Christians have returned to their city despite the violence that left more than 30 people dead.

Before the election, more than 3,500 Christians, as much as half of the city’s Christian population, fled for safety in nearby villages on the Nineveh plains.

Fr. Bashar Warda told ACN that Nineveh church communities had bid farewell to the last remaining Christians who had sought sanctuary with them.

Archbishop Sako said Christians were determined to return despite continuing tension and violence.

Recently 55-year-old Christian Sayah Yaqoub Adam was killed. He was known to the archbishop from his time as a parish priest in Mosul in the 1990s.

According to ACN, a number of returnees have indicated their desire in the long term to leave Mosul permanently to go to northern Iraq or abroad.

Fr. Warda reported that Archbishop Amil Nona of Mosul is keen to proceed as planned with the upcoming Holy Week and Easter liturgies, despite the closure of a number of churches in the city and continued security concerns.

“Archbishop Amil has made it clear that, working with the priests, he is determined to continue the mission in Mosul,” the priest told ACN.

ACN is providing about $34,000 for food packages for displaced and impoverished Christians in the far north of Iraq. The aid is dispatched by Chaldean Sisters in Zakho, which is close to the border with Syria and Turkey.

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