Friday, February 13, 2009

Iraqi Election may provide encouragement for Christians' return home

Results of the recent local Iraqi elections include the defeat of extremist religious groups, and the possible return home of Christian exiles, said an auxiliary bishop of Baghdad Zenit News. February 10, 2009:

Bishop Andraos Abouna affirmed that the results of the recent election could help the country to bring the country "back on track."

The Jan. 31 elections in 10 of the 14 provinces in the country signal hope for the Christian community in Iraq, he suggested. The Christians, now numbering under 300,000 people, had a population of 1.4 million only two decades ago.

The count on Feb. 5, with 90% of votes weighed in, showed that the Islamic religious parties had suffered losses. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's party, on the other hand, won a significant part of the vote. Official results are expected at the end of the month.

Bishop Abouna reported to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that this news "delighted" the Christians who were forced to emigrate due to sectarianism and the violence of the post-Saddam stage.

In an interview with ACN on Monday in Baghdad, the prelate said: "It is a very good result, especially at this stage in the country's development. It will help put Iraq back on track."

Underlining the peaceful environment during and after the elections, he affirmed, "This will make [Christians] think differently and may encourage them to start returning."

Friday, January 02, 2009

Heart of U.S. Occupation Reverts to Iraqi Control

The Green Zone, for nearly six years the headquarters of the American occupation of Iraq, passed from American to Iraqi control on Thursday. The New York Times reports:

... The Iraqi flag was raised during a small ceremony at what had been the Republican Palace of Saddam Hussein attended by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

In a speech broadcast on state television, Mr. Maliki said that the handover had a special meaning for Iraqis. “It means we have gotten rid of the most dangerous remains of the policies that the former regime adopted,” he said.

Later, on a street elsewhere in the 5.6-square-mile Green Zone, a second ceremony was attended by senior Iraqi security officials, including the defense minister, and senior American Army officers, including Lt. Gen, Lloyd J. Austin III, the second-highest ranking United States commander in Iraq.

At that ceremony, there were speeches about Iraq’s readiness to take over responsibility of the Green Zone, children sang songs and a poem was read about Iraqi unity. An Iraqi marching band — with bagpipes — played the country’s national anthem.