Chaldean Patriarch has high hopes for Kurdistan parliamentary elections

“FROM THIS ELECTION we expect a positive political change, said Cardinal Louis Raphaël I Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, commenting on the Sept. 30, 2018 vote in Kurdistan to elect a new Parliament. Results have not been announced at this writing and there are some reports that not all parties will accept the results.

Election posters in Erbil, Kurdistan

The stakes are high for Iraq’s Christians, said the Patriarch, explaining: “Cooperation between the central Iraqi government and the authorities in Kurdistan is very important. If it works, the whole country works. If it does not work, many complications arise.”

Patriarch Sako, made a cardinal by Pope Francis last June, continued: “We need an increase of the employment for youth. We need further help to rebuild the [Christian] villages in the Nineveh Plains, destroyed by ISIS. We need that the government grows and improves its services. Finally, we want to put an end to corruption [and the activities of] militia.

“We want to build together a democratic Iraq and to strengthen peaceful coexistence. We do have hope because things are changing in Iraq. The election of 118 new deputies to the Iraqi Parliament is a very good sign. Christians in Iraq expect also an improvement in security. But I have to admit that, regarding security, things have only lately begun to get better.”

About 20,000 Christian families left their villages in August 2014 and found shelter in Kurdistan. About 9,000 families have just returned to their homes. The cardinal said: “We hope that a positive result of the elections in Kurdistan persuade many other Christians to remain in Iraq. It’s a very difficult challenge because many of them left Iraq and are now living in Western countries. Their children are going to school and families are progressively integrating [into their adopted] societies. Even if the parents would like to return, they probably won´t because of the future of their children.”

The Kurdistan vote would have a “good result, if it can persuade Iraqi Christians who are still living as Internally Displaced People not to leave. For this purpose, we need to rebuild as soon as possible destroyed houses, schools, churches and infrastructures,” the Patriarch said.

Permanent conflicts between political and religious parties are a grave concern for the Church. The Patriarch added: “Furthermore, conflicts between Kurds and Arabs, who both want to occupy the Nineveh Plains, do not encourage Iraqi Christians to stay. The road between Badnaya to Teleskuf, for example, [two Christian villages], is closed. We have money to rebuild the houses there, but families cannot get in. Besides, people there need jobs. We could improve agriculture and industry on the Nineveh Plains and we could also start many other projects. We can found a polytechnic school to teach trades to young people.

“We have to face many challenges and but we [hope] that the new central government [in Baghdad] and the election in Kurdistan will bring positive solutions. Otherwise, people will lose hope and trust—this must not happen.”

Daniele Piccini