Chaldean Patriarchate calls for prayers for the ‘martyrs’ of Nasiriyah, Najaf and Baghdad

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In Sunday’s Mass, the Iraqi Church will express its closeness to Sunni and Shia protesters who have died recently. The Patriarch hopes the bloodshed will be the “seed of a sound and radical solution to build a homeland of justice and independence.” Although Iraq’s Prime Minister announced his resignation, a solution to the crisis remains elusive. Meanwhile, more protesters die.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Chaldean Patriarchate issued a statement on behalf of Card Louis Raphael Sako to express its “solidarity with Iraqi Shias and Sunnis”. With this in mind, the Chaldean Church calls on all the churches in the country to to pray during Sunday Mass for the “martyrs” of “Nasiriyah, Najaf, Baghdad and other cities”.

The press release sent to AsiaNews for wider circulation, reiterates the concern of Church leaders for the violence and bloodshed that have shaken the country since 1st October, and left 400 people dead and thousands more wounded.

Dedicated to both “demonstrators and security forces”, and wishing a “speedy recovery of the wounded,” the note expresses hope that “the blood [that] has been shed as a price for the freedom, dignified and secured life in Iraq, will be the seed of a sound and radical solution to build a homeland of justice and independence, in which no one would be oppressed or treated unfairly”, thus avoiding “slipping into an unknown destiny.”

With its new appeal, the Iraqi Church voices once more its alarm over anti-government protests. The latter have been exacerbated in recent days by the assault against the Iranian consulate in Najaf, which was set on fire, and by the deadly response of the police.

The escalation has culminated in the announcement, yesterday afternoon, that Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, one of the main targets of the protest, plans to resign. After he said that he would go before Parliament in the coming days to offer his resignation, people poured into Tahrir Square, the heart of the protest in the capital, to celebrate.

It is however unclear when he will effectively leave office. A special session of Parliament is set for tomorrow and Mahdi could use this opportunity to quit, thus giving lawmakers the possibility of forming a new government.

However, giving the increasingly tragic turn of events, no one is certain how things will evolve.  Some analysts believe that the prime minister’s sudden decision is due to increasing pressure from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s highest Shia religious leader who, yesterday, said that Parliament must come up with a government that can do “what’s in the interest of Iraq”

The ayatollah added that attacking peaceful protesters was “forbidden”; at the same time, he urged protesters to avoid violence and “eject vandals” from their midst.

Meanwhile, large numbers of of people yesterday defied the curfew in Najaf to attend the funeral of the victims of the violent repression by police that followed the burning of the Iranian consulate.

Street protests were also reported in Nasiriyah, with fresh clashes between demonstrators and police, causing three casualties. Two more people were killed in Baghdad, shot by police.,-Najaf-and-Baghdad-48689.html