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Sacred peace walk violated

BAGHDAD (SE): “Peace must be achieved by us, as well as politicians, through courageous initiatives and responsible decisions,” the Catholic Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako, the archbishop of Baghdad, said in announcing a 140 kilometre peace walk through the Nineveh Plain during Holy Week.

He called it an opportunity to engage in serious dialogue, openness and honesty in realising national reconciliation and unity among the country’s vast mosaic of religious and ethnic peoples, battered by years of sectarian violence.

But the sacred nature of the patriarch’s announcement and the action of the people who will make the arduous walk was shattered on April 9 when a bomb exploded near the entrance of the Sacred Heart Catholic church in Baghdad as people were dispersing after the Palm Sunday celebration.

Seven security officers and 12 civilian officials were wounded in the attack.

A police officer, Hassan Dalli, told Reuters, “We had just reached the scene to distribute food to the policemen there and when we arrived the bomb blew up.”

Police were on high alert on the day because of the spate of assassination attempts on government and security officials, and churches have also been under tight security since an explosion in the Syrian Catholic cathedral in central Baghdad in October last year.

This is a setback for the struggling Catholic people of Syria, as hopes had been high that this year something of great worth may be achieved. The Church has declared 2017 as a Year of Peace.

Despite yet another obstacle being placed in the way, around 100 people will set out from Irbil for the 140 kilometre trek to Alqosh in the Nineveh Plain.

It will take at least a week, but Patriarch Sako has promised to join them in a village near Alqosh to celebrate Holy Thursday.

He hopes that the spirit of this Easter will breathe new life into the prayer and reflection of the people, and new life into the movement for reconciliation and dialogue.

He also said that the pilgrimage will be joined by their country people in Europe, as another group will depart on the same day from Lyon in France designating various villages between Telaskov and Bakova as their stations for a way of the cross.

Telaskov is regarded as a significant place for Christians as it translates into English as Bishop’s Hill. Prior to being attacked by the Islamic State it was a thriving town of some 11,000 people, mostly Christian.

But since the attack began in 2014, the bulk of the population has been forced to flee and today it is a virtual ghost town.

CNS reported that this initiative is to demonstrate the bond among Iraqi communities and Churches around the world during these years of suffering and persecution.

Although Holy Week had only just begun, it was also marred in Egypt as a bomb tore through the Mar Girgis Coptic Church in Tanta and less than two hours later another blast hit St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria.

There were 11 casualties and over 66 people injured in the two explosions, one of which took place as the Coptic Patriarch Twadros II was celebrating Mass for Palm Sunday.

“At the moment we are going through a tunnel and we need to work hard and pray without ceasing for peace in our country and the region, and for the safe return of the forcibly displaced people to their homes and properties,” Patriarch Sako said.


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