“If we go for a civil state, we have hope. But if Iraq goes for a theocratic state that will be a disaster not only for Christians but for everybody” – Yonadam Kanna, Iraqi MP

Muqtada al-Sadr, the kingmaker of Iraq

Radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s party has won the Iraqi election. Al-Sadr was once considered an outlaw by the American government. His notorious ‘Mahdi Army’ militia had been blamed for kidnappings and murders, including the killing of US soldiers.

In recent years, Al-Sadr has repeatedly threatened to bring down the Iraqi government, accusing it of corruption. He has also attacked Iran for meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs. According to Al Jazeera, Iran has already publicly stated it will not allow al-Sadr’s bloc to govern.

Al-Sadr’s uncompromising nationalism appears to have struck a chord. However, some believe the shock election result is due to poor voter turnout. Disillusioned with politics and seemingly endless foreign intervention, many Iraqis stayed away from the polls. In contrast, Al-Sadr’s supporters, which number in the hundreds of thousands, turned out in droves. However, al-Sadr will not become Prime Minister as he himself did not stand in the election. Instead, he will play the role of king-maker.

Meeting with the kingmaker’s uncle

A few weeks before the election, FRRME CEO Mike Simpson sat down with the king-maker’s eminent uncle, Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr. Unlike his firebrand nephew, Hussein al-Sadr is a gentle man who talks about reconciliation.

When we interviewed him at his home in Baghdad, he told us: “The history of Iraq shows that it is a country of many religions, not just Islam. Indeed, Christians existed in Iraq before Muslims.” He assures us that despite the sectarian divisions, “the people of Iraq know and love their history”. It is a message we pray gets through.

Ayatollah Hussein al-Sadr shakes hands with Mike Simpson, CEO of FRRME

To better understand the plight of Christians in Iraq, we also spoke with one of the country’s most prominent Christian politicians. We interviewed Mr Yonadam Kanna in Baghdad, where he has set up a refugee camp for displaced Christians. Ahead of the election, he told us about his hopes for Iraq: “If we go for a civil state, we have hope. But if Iraq goes for a theocratic state that will be a disaster not only for Christians but for everybody. We have to push for this culture of diversity, a culture of respect and love and not of hatred and conflict.”

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