Bishop Yaldo: Church and government urge return of Christians to Iraq

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Citizenship, the situation in the Nineveh plain and the Christians affected by the explosions in Lebanon at the center of the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Chaldean patriarch. For the auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, the reconstruction of houses and employment are the priorities. Listen to the voice of the young people demonstrating. Al-Kazemi’s affection for Pope Francis.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The return of Christians to Iraq, aid for the repatriation of those who emigrated to Lebanon and were also affected by the tragic 4 August explosion, citizenship as a common basis for coexistence, the emergence of the new coronavirus.

These are the priorities that emerged in the recent meeting between the Chaldean patriarch, Card Louis Raphael Sako, and Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi, shared by Msgr. Basilio Yaldo, auxiliary of Baghdad and close collaborator of the cardinal.

The prelate confirms:  “A nice and cordial meeting with a person we have known for a long time, since he was head of the secret services and who has already received us on more than one occasion”.

Msgr. Yaldo continues: “After greeting us the premier expressed great satisfaction for this meeting which is a source of courage and support, because it comes from the head of the Catholic Church, and is an incentive to continue the work ”. The Prime Minister “asked to convey his greetings to Pope Francis and, speaking of the pontiff, he praised his simplicity, humility and charisma … he has great affection for the Pope”.

Going deeper into the details of the meeting between Card Sako and Prime Minister Al-Kazemi, the auxiliary of Baghdad underlines that “we talked about the return of Chaldean Christians from Lebanon and all Iraqis in general”. They too, like all the population, were hit by the double explosion that gutted part of the capital and it is the task of the Iraqi authorities “to help those who want to return to their homeland. We too as a Church, together with the government, want to contribute and encourage their return, which has become an even greater urgency after this disaster “.

Together with the Iraqis of the diaspora, the Chaldean leaders are concerned about  “Christians in Iraq: to keep the community and our faith alive we need to guarantee responses in terms of reconstruction of homes and employment, above all for the young people. Many have finished their studies, but are out of work. The government must do more for them, we told the premier and his collaborators that the voice of the protesters must be heard”.

Since October 1st, the nation has been the scene of a vast movement against government and authority. The demonstrations, forcibly repressed by the police, led to the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, but the demonstrators – regardless of ethnic, confessional or religious distinctions – are aiming at the overthrow of the entire political class. The clamp down strengthened in late November, following the double assault on the Iranian consulate in Najaf, and caused a total of over 450 deaths and 20,000 injuries.

Protests, economy, unemployment, coronavirus emergency “which represents the most important challenge for the country today” as confirmed by Msgr. Yaldo, are unresolved issues. “It is essential to guarantee space for Iraqi entrepreneurs and businessmen who have made their fortunes abroad. We need to encourage them to invest in their country, come back and contribute to its development and wealth… that’s why we told the government to launch appeals to the people of the diaspora and invest in their return ”.

Finally, Patriarch Sako and the Prime Minister addressed the issue of the Christians of the Nineveh plain, who fled in the summer of 2014 following the rise of the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis) and the projects needed to ensure their safe return.

“With this government – says Msgr. Yaldo – we have more hope, because there is evidence of good will even in a context that remains difficult. He said he intends to act as peacemaker and promote safe coexistence projects even in the most controversial areas “.

To do this, he concludes, they must “boost citizenship as the basis for a common coexistence. A theme that is close to the heart of the Chaldean patriarch and even the premier said he wanted to support it, because we are all Iraqis. As a symbol of unity, we have proposed to play the national anthem in every event, conference or initiative at the state level “.