By Amer Hamid
Baghdad, Feb 25 (efe-epa).- Amid heavy security measures as part of the Iraqi capital’s preparations to receive Pope Francis next week, graffiti murals decorate the barriers that protect Baghdad’s churches.
The Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral, where the Pope is scheduled to meet Iraq’s clerics, has been fortified for years to prevent attacks like the one that occurred in 2010 and left over 50 members of the Syriac-Catholic community dead.
The young street artist behind the graffiti, Amjad Mohsen, told Efe that the cathedral is one of the most important stops in the Pope’s visit in Iraq on 5 March.
“I came up with the idea as an attempt to welcome the visit of the Pope Francis to Iraq, which will be beautiful and honorable for the entire Iraqi people,” he said.
The 29-year-old said that the graffiti “sends a message of love and peace to our Christian brothers,” a minority in Iraq that has suffered persecution and violence by Sunni and Shiite extremists for years.
The initiative, launched by the Imprint of Hope NGO, aims at decorating the barriers and concrete blocks surrounding the church, he added.
One Baghdad resident named Ahmed Nabil said he was thrilled with the graffiti: “What beautiful colors and joy one feels upon looking at it!”
“This visit sparks hope and this is what crossed my mind as I looked at the details of this picturesque painting. This painting that has covered the ugly concrete blocks is a metaphor for the Pope’s visit,” he said.
In central Baghdad’s Karada district, where the church is located, residents also feel hopeful about the papal visit.