Baghdad -- Time "is running out" and Iraq's serious problems require "wisdom and a sense of responsibility" so that leaders can take "courageous actions" to lead the country "out of the crisis," writes Chaldean Patriarch Card Louis Raphael Sako in a message to AsiaNews, highlighting the concerns of the local church over the country's political situation.
In his note, the prelate calls for the creation of a "joint crisis unit" to "stop the bloodshed" and lead the country "back to normality", building a "strong state with solid foundations."
Over the week-end, more people died as police and security forces cracked down on anti-government protests, which have shaken the country since 1st October.
The crescendo of repression and brutality have caused almost 340 deaths (according to Reuters) and thousands of wounded -- mostly civilians -- pushing the Chaldean Church to promote a three-day fast and prayer for peace.
For their part, the authorities have reported 111 dead, including members of the security forces, plus 157 deaths in the first week of October, when the protest began, and then resumed on 25 October with renewed vigour.
Over the weekend, nine more people died in the capital, Baghdad, and several southern cities including Basra, Nassiriya, Diwaniya, Kut, Amara and Najaf.
At least 24 people were wounded in the Shia holy city of Karbala, when police opened fire on protesters to prevent them from reaching government offices.
In his message, the Chaldean patriarch says that the protests are reaching the end of their second month and continue to be "unprecedented" in terms of "size, variety of participants and quality of demands."
Their scope has proven to be such as to become a sort of "national authority" that has upset the lives of citizens, overwhelmed the government and hit a nation already "exhausted by wars, debts and political problems."
These protests are "peaceful" and far from "partisan interests", denominational or national, notes Card Sako; however, young people, he warns, are desperate "because of rampant corruption, sectarianism and the logic of quotas", which have worsened poverty, deprivation, unemployment, poor services and a brain drain.
People only want "security and stability" and "a dignified life for themselves and their children." Hence, it is necessary to "give answers" to those who are in the streets who should "not be underestimated" as the situation gets worse with a "high number of casualties and injuries", schools and universities still closed and no development plan.
Shia authorities also "expressed support for their requests in the Friday sermon."
Finally, Card Sako calls again on political elites to build a state that "controls resources, protects citizens and upholds their rights", that "fights corruption" and reclaims "looted riches", that does not harm citizens nor persecute those who tell the truth.
"As a Church we are monitoring the situation with great concern and pray that this crisis can be resolved soon and in a positive manner."