The Pope visits sectarian and divided Iraq amid Covid-19 crisis
Murad Makhmudov and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, is making a historic visit to Iraq. Hence, a land blighted by Islamist terrorism, sectarianism, the religious persecution of minorities, and other convulsions related to the legacy of outside military intervention; will hear a voice calling for peace and reconciliation.
At the same time, internal Iraqi voices of hope from the younger generation are being crushed by the state apparatus and Shia militias who are loyal to the strings of Iran. Thus, in a land with a dwindling Christian population and where Yazidis were enslaved by ISIS (Islamic State – IS) – and countless other tragedies related to sectarian Shia and Sunni massacres and the Kurdish question – the Pope seeks a new spirit of peace to break the chains of bloodshed.
The Pope said, “May the clash of arms be silenced… may there be an end to acts of violence and extremism, factions and intolerance!”
He continued, “Iraq has suffered the disastrous effects of wars, the scourge of terrorism and sectarian conflicts often grounded in a fundamentalism incapable of accepting the peaceful coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups.”
The fraughting trip is also increased by the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis. Thus with over 13,500 coronavirus deaths in Iraq – and with this figure being much higher and infections running high – the fear is that more infections may result because of the crowds and issues related to security. Yet the Pope, knowing full well the coronavirus impact on Italy that will reach 100,000 deaths in the next few days, believes that the coronavirus risk in Iraq needs to become secondary to the hope of fostering peace.
Reuters reports, “On Saturday the pope will hold an unprecedented meeting with Iraq’s top Shi’ite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in the southern city of Najaf. He will also visit Ur, the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham, who is revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews, and will return to say Mass in Baghdad.”
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