Chaldean patriarch calls for fasting, prayer amid Iraq protests

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Iraqi protesters run from tear gas fired by security forces at Baghdad’s Khallani square during ongoing anti-government demonstrations, Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images. By Courtney Mares Baghdad, Iraq, Nov 12, 2019 / 10:50 am (CNA).- The Chaldean patriarch has called for three days of fasting and prayer “for an end to the chaos and violence that are bloodying” Iraq. For more than six weeks, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been protesting government corruption. More than 300 have been killed by security forces. Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, has asked that Chaldeans observe Nov. 11-13 as days of fasting and prayer. The protests, which began Oct. 1, are largely in response to government corruption and a lack of economic growth and proper public services. Protesters are calling for electoral reform and for early elections. At least 319 people have been killed in the protests. Government forces have used tear gas and bullets against protesters. Nearly 15,000 people have been injured in the protests, according to the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq. “These young people went out to the streets demanding their rights because they found themselves heading to ‘no through road’, expressing their pain. Where there is a shortage in services, in electricity and water etc. The same thing applies to health and educational institutions, streets, and employability,” Sako said at an ecumenical prayer for peace in Baghdad Nov. 5, according to AsiaNews. “What we need is a careful understanding of Iraq after the 2003 US invasion,” Sako told AsiaNews Nov. 11. The cardinal said that the protests are “a spontaneous reaction” to the sufferings of past years. He added that the Iraqi government will need to “win the trust” of young people and be open to economic reform. Pope Francis prayed for the people of Iraq following the deaths and injuries of many protesters, and called upon the Iraqi authorities “to listen to the cry of the population that asks for a dignified and peaceful life.” “I urge all Iraqis, with the support of the international community, to pursue the path of dialogue and reconciliation and to seek the right solutions to the challenges and problems of the country,” Pope Francis said Oct. 31. Christians in northern Iraq have been rebuilding their homes and churches following the Islamic State genocide that devasted their communities. “My thoughts turn to beloved Iraq … I pray that those battered people will find peace and stability after so many years of war and violence, where they have suffered so much,” Pope Francis said Oct. 31.