The Church Is Uncertain after the Kurds Vote for Independence

Source: FSSPX News

On September 25, 2017, the “yes” vote won a sweeping victory with 92.73% of the votes for the referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan. After the vote, Patriarch Louis Raphaël Sako, the Catholic patriarch of the Chaldean rite, fears another flare-up of violence of which the Christian community will not fail to bear the brunt yet again.

Tensions are running high in Iraq after it was announced that the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan was voted in by the referendum on September 25. There was no lack of pressure from the outside, especially from Turkey and Iran, for whom independence could have seriously destabilizing consequences for the entire region.

There had also been pressure from the central power in Baghdad: “We will not allow the division of Iraq,” warned Prime Minister Haidar Al-Habadi, as he put an embargo on the city of Erbil, the capital of the future Kurdish State.

The Chaldean Church, in the person of its patriarch, Louis Raphaël Sako, also voiced its concern at the risk that the disputes may escalate in a country deeply wounded and divided by recent conflicts. “The situation is very tense here,” the Chaldean patriarch declared to Vatican Radio, adding that “people are ready to go to war if the ‘yes’ vote wins the referendum”.

Patriarch Sako also denounced the fact that the local Kurdish authorities have done everything to exploit the Christian minority in a vote whose outcome is more than uncertain. In a press conference on September 24, the Supreme Council for the referendum presented a political document with 16 points guaranteeing full and entire personal and community rights for all the national and religious elements present in the future independent Kurdistan. It was a good way to draw votes for independence.

Several voices, however, including the Zowaa Party (Assyrian Democratic Movement), spoke out to denounce the document’s promises. According to this party which is campaigning for a federal State, these promises are not enough to guarantee any real protection of the rights of the different religious elements.

The Chaldean Catholic patriarch expressed many reservations on a vote that may very well stir up a hornets’ nest. Another conflict could only weaken even further the Catholic community that is only just beginning to bandage its wounds from the war against the Islamic State.

Next, he autonomous regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan has announced that presidential and parliamentary elections will take place on November 1. It is another step towards secession and the establishment of a new State.