ASIA/IRAQ - Christians flocked to Easter Liturgies. Gesture of solidarity with Sunni Muslims in Falluja trapped in the city in crossfire between US troops and guerrilla forces

Wednesday, 14 April 2004

Baghdad (Fides Service)-“Despite the atmosphere anything but calm, Iraqi Christians came in great numbers to take part in all the Easter liturgies” local Catholic priest, Father Nizar Semaan, in Mosul told Fides. “Unfortunately we had to cancel the Easter vigil night masses for security reasons, but on Easter Sunday the churches were filled to capacity for all the masses. Some of the faithful were visibly anxious but thanks to security measures organised by the Christian communities themselves everything went well ”.
“On Easter Sunday the local Christians in Mosul sent a convoy of food and medicine as a gesture of solidarity with the people of Falluja mainly Sunni Muslims trapped in the cross fire of a battle between Iraqi guerrilla forces and American troops. However, for some unknown reason the trucks were turned back” Fr Nizar told Fides. “In addition we have these abductions of westerners for terrorist reasons. This is new for Iraq. We are not used to seeing people abducted and in my opinion this means of terrorism is being directed by outsiders”.
On the political level Father Nizar said :“I am disappointed to see the western media describe the situation in Iraq with such superficiality. In no way do I envisage the Sunni-Shi’ite alliance foreseen by many. In reality the Shi’ite Muslims are not united even among themselves. The Shi’ite leader Moqtada Sadr who is leading the revolt against the Coalition troops has a relatively small following. Most Shi’ite Muslims see him as a very dangerous man who can bring nothing but harm to Iraq and to the Shi’ite communities themselves. The people are experiencing this directly. In fact because of the violence in the last few days the process of rebuilding infra- structures in the south, where most Iraqi Shi’ite Muslims live, has been suspended. Whereas in the north, in Mosul, for example the situation is better and the work of reconstruction continues ”.
“In Baghdad, there is chaos in the Shi’ite districts but the rest of the city is relatively calm although the people are still afraid. I am certain that they are negotiating to find a solution to the situation and that there will be new developments in the next few days” Fr Nizar told Fides.(L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 14/4/2004, righe 31 parole 384)