Middle East

Arab Spring promoting bloodshed: Iraq Christian leader

The new patriarch of the Iraq-based Chaldean Church, Louis Sako greets people as he arrives for a ceremony marking his return to Iraq from the Vatican, on February 7, 2013 at Saint Joseph's Cathedral in the northern Kurdish city of Ainkawa. AFP PHOTO SAFIN HAMED

KIRKUK, Iraq: The newly appointed patriarch of Iraq's largest Christian community said on Saturday that the Arab Spring had been hijacked by narrow interests and had promoted tension and bloodshed.

Asked about the impacts on Christians of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East that eventually led to the ouster of strongmen in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya and the conflict in Syria, the head of the Chaldean Church Louis Sako said the changes had initially signalled hope.

"But unfortunately, it went in a different direction, and was taken over by a narrow faction," Sako told AFP in an interview.

"We are watching the situation in the Arab Spring countries. Where is the spring? There are fights, there is tension, and there is blood and corruption."

Sako was selected as the new patriarch of the Iraq-based Chaldean Church on February 1, replacing Emmanuel III Delly who retired in December after reaching the upper age limit of 85.

The Chaldean church, which has 700,000 followers and uses Aramaic -- the language that Jesus Christ would have spoken -- belongs to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world.

But along with other Iraqi Christian communities, it suffered persecution, forced flight and killings in the aftermath of the 2003 US-led invasion.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, many thousands fled after 44 worshippers and two priests were killed in an attack on a Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad on October 31, 2010, an atrocity claimed by Al-Qaeda.





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