ROME – As at-times violent post-election tensions continue to cause unrest throughout Iraq among those who dispute the results, the country’s Chaldean bishops have voiced concern, urging citizens and those with responsibility to avoid conflict and resolve their differences through dialogue.
In a Nov. 16 statement, the Chaldean bishops of Iraq expressed “pain and deep concern” at the tensions that have gripped the country after its parliamentary elections last month.
Invoking a sense of national patriotism, they asked citizens generally to “show high national and moral responsibility in dealing with these results. Otherwise, the country will face the ‘worst’ and we all know that Iraq cannot bear more.”
“From the standpoint of fidelity, the Chaldean Church appeals to all those concerned with the elections, including political, academic leaders, religious authorities, etc., to make efforts and contain this crisis wisely,” they said.
The bishops urged Iraqi leaders to organize “a sincere and courageous national dialogue” with the aim of finding an acceptable solution to tensions that is in line with Iraq’s laws and constitution, and to “expedite the formation of a national government capable of correcting the path, fighting corruption, protecting sovereignty, unity of the country, and providing a security and dignity for Iraqis.”
Iraq’s Oct. 10 parliamentary elections saw the victory of the country’s Sadrist Party, led by Shiite leader Muqtada al Sadr, and the defeat of the Fatah party, which some believe hold close ties to Shiite militias, lost.
Once rumors of the outcome began circulating in the media, Fatah leaders rejected the results, asking their supporters to take to the streets.
In Baghdad, protestors have set up blockades around the so-called “Green Zone,” where government offices and embassies are located, charging that the election results were falsified. A recount is underway in some constituencies where appeals have been filed.
Things took a violent turn Nov. 5 during clashes between security forces and Fatah protestors who attempted to enter the Green Zone. At least two died and 125 others were injured in the incident.
Two days later, the residence of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi was hit by a drone attack. Security forces in the area shot down one drone, but a second one hit.
There were no casualties, but the act sparked further tensions that many observers fear could throw the country back into civil war and reopen a violent conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack on al Kadhimi, yet in the immediate aftermath some accused pro-Iranian Shiite militias of orchestrating it, but these allegations have been disputed.
In a Nov. 9 statement signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis voiced his “prayerful closeness” to al Kadhimi, his family and those who were wounded.
“In condemning this vile act of terrorism, His Holiness once more expresses his confidence that with the blessing of the most high God the people of Iraq will be confirmed in wisdom and strength in pursuing the path of peace through dialogue and fraternal solidarity,” the telegram said.
Pope Francis earlier this year became the first pope in history to visit Iraq, making a 3-day visit to the country in March which was his first trip after Italy’s lengthy COVID-19 lockdowns and which was widely celebrated and hailed as a step toward peace and reconciliation in Iraq.
In a previous Nov. 14 appeal, Iraq’s Chaldean bishops asked the country’s politicians to “follow the national and fraternal values in order to give priority to the public interest rather than partisan agendas.”
This, they said, “can be achieved by getting together in a calm and civilized dialogue explaining each other’s point of view, to end the current tension generated by the recent election.”
They urged Iraq’s political leaders to expedite the formation of a government of national competencies which is “capable of realizing the demands of Iraqi people and preventing the country from ‘slipping’ for the worse.”
To use threats or weapons to solve problems between citizens “is one of the major ‘sins’ in all customs, as weapons are for the defense of the homeland only,” they said, voicing hope that Iraq would be “preserved and protected in the consciences of its loyal citizens.”
Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen