The head of the Catholic church paid a visit to Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Sistani last week. The purposes behind the visit remain in haze.
Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, arrived in Iraq on March 5 for an unprecedented four-day visit, meeting with ministers, religious figures, and people in the country.
He flew to Najaf, where he met with Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, Iraq’s Shiite spiritual leader. The gathering was hailed as a landmark point in Iraqi history in western media. He also went to Ur, Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdistan region’s capital, and Mosul, where he prayed at the remains of four churches destroyed by ISIS.
Since 2003, Ayatollah Sistani has encouraged Iraqis to defend minorities. Even his 2014 fatwa, which was widely credited with empowering Shiite militias to fight ISIS, was a nationalist appeal to all Iraqis, inspiring the founding of Christian and Yazidi armed groups to protect the country.
On the other side of the talk, however, little has been observed of the catholic church in support of Muslims and other group within and without the region. There are several questions regarding the recent visit left unresponded.
Pope Francis in his comments on the vitality of security for all groups, made no mention of the parties involved in guaranteeing the security. Why was no reference made about the militias and people who fought, and lost their lives?
Living in a European region seems to have left the head of catholic church oblivious about the reality of the war scene in Iraq. It’s clear to all observers and analysts that the 2003 US invasion of Iraq increased tensions between the country’s different religious and ethnic groups, resulting in civil war.
ISIS invasion of Iraq in the summer of 2014 was also assisted by occupation, which took the Iraqi regime dangerously close to collapse. The armed group attempted to establish a homogeneous society by religious cleansing of populace and public areas. Pope Francis seems to have taken the reality behind the occupation and civil war for granted.
Pope’s travel to Iraq was certainly a landmark visit to a region already struck by war, occupation, violence and extremism. Nevertheless, one might ask why is the visit made when all these crises is almost over?
The world of media has registered no voice by the sovereign of the Vatican City State when ISIS was brutally ploughing the country killing civilians including Christians. Who can forget the disasters inflicted on Yazidis by ISIS?
ISIS doctrinal views justified the displacement of Iraqi Christians from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains, the genocide and enslavement of Yazidi peoples, and the destruction of both groups’ temples. The negligence on the side of catholic church is also unforgettable.
There are documented evidences about the role of western countries, including the United States, in the emergence and development of ISIS. ISIS was equipped with western armament, trained by western forces and supported by western intelligence. The fate of Christian minority in Iraq was more affected by US and its alliance in the region.
Pope Francis, informed about the involved groups, preferred to take no position. His silence facilitated a bloody war in which men were killed, women were raped, children were tortured and families displaced.
The final question is about Christians living in Yemen and Syria. Saudi-led war against Yemen led to the most severe humanitarian crisis ever. In Syria, with 1.2 million Christian citizens, the condition is not better. The Catholic church has no responsibility towards its followers in Syria or Yemen? Is the Pope expecting stability in Syria to express concerns about the condition in the country?
Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq was loaded with comments on the significance of unity, brotherhood and peace. Talking about the perpetrators of violence, war and extremism seems to be far away from his duty. While action speaks louder than words, words remain safer than actions.