First Published: 2017-11-08

Kirkuk archbishop says Iraq needs ‘Marshall Plan’
Rebuilding of Iraq by Marshall Plan style aid necessary for country’s confidence in future following destabilisation by American intervention says Mirkis.
Middle East Online

"The only thing that will succeed is a rebirth arising from the grassroots"

LOURDES - A top Catholic cleric from Iraq says his country has "lost all confidence" despite the rout of the Islamic State group, and needs an economic and cultural "Marshall Plan".

"It's much deeper than simply giving money," Yousef Thomas Mirkis said after addressing a meeting of French bishops in the southwestern French pilgrimage town of Lourdes.

Mirkis, the Chaldean archbishop of the northern diocese of Kirkuk, said the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 had "opened a Pandora's Box, and today we see the consequences of the destabilisation of the entire region."

Iraq will long struggle with "many difficulties," said Mirkis. "We know that sectarianism has failed, American-style democracy has failed. The only thing that will succeed is a rebirth arising from the grassroots."

He said that if young people under 30, who make up some 60 percent of the population, "do not rise to the occasion, nothing can be done."

The 68-year-old cleric, who received some of his training in France, thanked the French Catholic Church for its support to hundreds of Iraqi students who fled to Kirkuk from areas that fell to IS during a sweeping 2014 offensive, especially the jihadists' Iraqi bastion Mosul.

He urged the bishops to further their support for Iraq, which has lost more than half of its Christian population in recent years. Today, they number fewer than 350,000.

"One of the world's oldest Christian communities is disappearing in Iraq before our eyes amid widespread indifference," he told them on Tuesday.

Chaldean Christians are the most numerous in Iraq. Before the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 they numbered more than one million, including more than 600,000 in Baghdad.

- Emigration 'not the answer' -

The prelate said IS at its peak had many people in its thrall, even if they were "not won over to the ideology".

He added: "The media talk about the defeat of Daesh (an Arabic acronym for IS)... but there is the mentality that Daesh created."

The human, socioeconomic and political situation "must be taken into consideration," he said.

"You cannot ignore the (need for) stability in a country that has lost all confidence in the future, so there's really a lot of work to do," added Mirkis, who is also archbishop of Sulaimaniyah, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The "yes" vote in an independence referendum in September in the Kurdish region -- opposed not just by Baghdad but also Iran, Turkey and the Kurds' Western allies -- impeded the return of Christians to Mosul and nearby Qaraqosh, he said.

Mirkis said investing in students in Iraq was cheaper than providing scholarships in France, adding: "Emigration is not the answer, it's an uprooting, a loss of identity."

He added: "A Marshall Plan is much, much better than spending 2,000 euros ($2,300) to put a student through a year of university."

Mirkis said Iraqi universities "need the experience of a country like France, which also once needed to rebuild its country" -- in the aftermath of World War II.

 

At least 235 killed in Egypt mosque attack

Saudi Crown Prince calls Iran supreme leader 'new Hitler'

Syrian opposition agrees to send united delegation to Geneva talks

Saudi-led coalition clears passenger flights to Sanaa

Baghdad's Shabandar cafe marks century since opening

Turkey says Trump pledged to stop arming Kurds

Turkey president sues main opposition party leader

Lebanon's Hariri brings status quo back with him

Activists say 'everybody knew' about Libya slave trade

Erdogan says no contact 'at the moment' with Assad

Lebanon's Jumblatt criticises Saudi Arabia, Iran

China says it will make efforts on Syria reconstruction

Turkey to detain 79 former teachers in post-coup probe

Hezbollah hails PM's suspension of resignation

Syrian opposition aims for unity at talks in Riyadh

Egypt police kill 3 Islamists in shootout

Turkey unsure if Assad to be part of Syria political transition

Migrant arrivals from Libya down since EU deal

Palestinian factions leave Cairo talks with little progress

Sudan’s Bashir looks to Putin for ‘protection’ from US aggression

China, Djibouti forge 'strategic' ties

IS propaganda channels fall quiet in 'unprecedented' hiatus

Kremlin to create Syria congress despite Turkey ‘reservations’

Netanyahu berates deputy minister for 'offensive' remarks on US Jews

Egypt PM heads to Germany for medical treatment

Egypt destroys 10 SUVs carrying arms on Libya border

Outrage in Iraq over 'child marriage' bill

Iraq launches operation to clear last IS holdouts from desert

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen airport, port to aid

Turkey court rules to keep Amnesty chief in jail

France calls for UN meeting on Libya slave-trading

Egypt detains 29 for allegedly spying for Turkey

WTO panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against UAE blockade

Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation

Israel seizes explosive material at Gaza border

Activists call for release of UK journalist held by IS

Bahrain upholds jail sentence for activist

Iraq attacks at lowest since 2014

Turkey continues crackdown in post-coup probe

Hariri back in Lebanon

Putin to hold Syria peace talks with Erdogan, Rouhani

US carries out air strikes against IS in Libya

Divided Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home