ASIA/IRAQ - Not only bombs and violence. Local Catholic priest tells another story

Thursday, 30 September 2004

Baghdad (Fides Service)- Father Nizar, who returned to Iraq a month ago, describes the local situation : “Life is difficult but we keep hoping that the future will be better. The first problem is lack of security, the second is a lack of jobs”.
“The work of rebuilding homes, schools, roads continues but there is not much other work around expect state jobs where there has been some improvement. Under Saddam state workers were paid 3000 Dinar, or 2 dollars US which was enough to buy 2 kilos of meat. Today state salaries range from 250,000 to 500,000 Dinar, which suffices to keep a family”. “These higher salaries have boosted local economy because many state workers can afford to have work done on their homes and buy home appliances something they had not done for at least 15 years” Father Nizar told Fides.
With regard to day to day living Father Nizar said: “Children and students are getting ready to start a new school year despite fear of terrorist attacks on schools. In my town this is a time of weddings and we have as many at 6 every day. This week we celebrated 25. This year we have 200 new families”.
“Food supplies are not a problem: the markets sell everything even fruit rarely seen before such as bananas. Food prices are acceptable and accessible to all”.
With regard to the situation of the local Catholic Church in Iraq Father Nizar said “pastoral activity goes ahead as usual youth meetings, catechism, opening new social centres, courses in computer techniques and languages”.
According to Nizar “18 months since the fall of the regime people now realise that a change was necessary. I have spoken with many people of all ages and not one of them said they would like to return to the past”. Father Nizar expresses the sentiments of the local Christians: “Iraqi Christians continue to hope for and want a better future for Iraq, despite fear of increasing Islamic fundamentalism. In Mosul, for example Islamic fundamentalist movements are strong and our girls cannot go anywhere without being insulted and threatened”.
With regard to security Father Nizar said “even in Baghdad people are used to terrorist attacks. And a new bomb blast comes as no surprise: one or two hours later everyone goes back to what they were doing. Everyone carries a gun some for self defence and others to order people about. At the moment criminal gangs which have nothing to do with politics are an emerging problem. They take hostages and demand money for their release. There have been 3 or 4 cases in our town. The targets are doctors, engineers, university teachers, all at the mercy of criminal gangs and groups of Muslim extremists. Anyone working with the Americans or humanitarian organisations is in danger and especially if they are Christians”.(L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 30/9/2004 righe 42 parole 568)