Baghdad auxiliary: Coronavirus worse than a war. Curfew and social media

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In Iraq there are 124 confirmed cases and at least 10 dead. A state of emergency lasting 30 days. Baghdad borders and airport closed. Bishop Warduni: “rigid and heavy” measures in the face of “serious danger”. The new media a channel to maintain communion with the faithful: “the strongest medicine is prayer”.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – In Iraq “we have had wars, [confessional] violence” but “we have never seen such a severe and heavy curfew” as the one adopted in these hours for the new coronavirus, says Msgr. Shlemon Audish Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad.

The bishop, who is also the right arm of the Chaldean patriarch, was commenting on the measures taken in recent days by the central government and the Church to stem the epidemic. “The Iraqi population – adds the prelate – is aware of the serious danger we are facing, because otherwise the authorities would not have taken such drastic measures”.

The government today imposed a curfew in the capital from March 17 to 24, in an attempt to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. According to reports from the Ministry of Health, to date there are 124 confirmed cases of Covid-19, at least 10 victims. All flights to and from Baghdad international airport have also been suspended.

The country is preparing to declare a state of emergency for 30 days, as invoked yesterday by President Barham Salih and interim Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. The head of state and government leader sent a request to President of Parliament Mohamed al-Halbousi. The measure may be extended in case of need.

As a precautionary measure, several governorates of the country have ordered the closure of the borders: these include Dhi-Qar, Babil, Maysan, Najaf, Basra, Diwaniyah, Kirkuk, Wasit, Nineveh and Kerbala, as well as Erbil and Suleimanya. Schools and universities have been closed since last week; travel to countries affected by the epidemic is also prohibited.

“For some time the situation has not been good – says the auxiliary of Baghdad – and there is an atmosphere of anguish, people are afraid and for this reason it is essential to try to instill courage, especially now that they see the churches and mosques and schools closed”.

The prelate adds “many people are asking questions, they understand that this is serious and it is compounded by a general feeling of fatigue, as little by little people isolate themselves and their families to pray “.

Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako has decided to celebrate every morning a function that is broadcast live on Facebook, to keep alive communion – albeit at a distance – with the faithful. The new technologies are the channel used to spread the celebrations and rites of Lent, as happened last Friday with the live broadcast of the Via Crucis and yesterday morning of Sunday mass. The Chaldean primate asked everyone to “join in prayer” through which “we hope to disperse this cloud” that obscures the whole world.

“The patriarch – underlines Msgr. Warduni – invited the faithful to follow the Way of the Cross on Friday from home. The new coronavirus is highly contagious and makes people very ill. This is why we try to make small groups within each family, strengthening the invitation to prayer starting from the Rosary at 7 in the evening, before dinner “. At this moment, he continues, “the great epidemics of the past and that of today come back to mind: and we pray to the Lord invoking His mercy”.

Lastly, the auxiliary of Baghdad does not spare a note from the authorities who would have reacted too slowly in the face of the advance of the epidemic, especially in neighboring Iran which is the epicenter of the outbreak for the Middle East region. “They should have closed the borders earlier, we all expected the epidemic. The whole world – he concludes – is trying to find a vaccine. Now the strongest medicine is prayer, entrusting oneself to the Lord and His hands.”