08/06/2014, 00.00
IRAQ


Baghdad: Iraqi Christians and Muslims pray together for peace and religious freedom

Joseph Mahmoud

At a tragic moment in the country's history, members of the two religions meet at Saint George Church for a joint prayer. They agree that "There is no Iraq without Christians". Mar Sako noted Christian suffering, especially in Mosul, and called on ordinary Iraqis to stand together in a show of solidarity. "We need actions" from Muslim leaders.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) -In a tragic moment for Iraq, scene of a bloody conflict that could lead to its partition as the advance by the forces of the Islamic Caliphate is undermining the nature of the country, Christians and Muslims came together to pray for peace.

With the slogan "There is no Iraq without Christians", Saint George Parish Church in Baghdad hosted a meeting last night, an opportunity to meet on the eve of the feast of the Transfiguration and the World Day of Prayer for Iraq, which are celebrated today.

Muslim civil society leaders, officials from Baghdad and neighbouring cities, Christian leaders and ordinary believers gathered in the church to pray for peace and revive the desire for "unity and solidarity" in the country.

A special prayer was also said for the Christians of Mosul, the first victims of the advancing militia of the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, ISIS), which set up a Caliphate and imposed its rigid interpretation of Sharia.

Participants waved Iraqi flags, lit candles and sang hymns of peace. They showed their support for Christians living a moment of great difficulty, as the Chaldean Patriarch pointed out yesterday in a letter addressed to Pope Francis.

Mar Raphael I Louis Sako, who took part in the joint prayer, stressed the profound "shock about what is happening in the country."

His Holiness added that in Mosul people "have been uprooted" from their ancestral land, "robbed and humiliated because of their Christian faith."

He also mentioned the Sinjar massacre in which 70 Yazidi men were killed and a number of women were captured.

For the patriarch of Baghdad, acts such as these "could happen two thousand years ago, but not today" because they "do not belong to our ethics and our traditions."

For this reason, he invited those present, without distinction of religion, to "stand as one" to "save the country and protect the lives of innocent people."

Mar Sako noted that Iraq is going through a crucial phase in its life and history, that "solidarity at the national, regional and international levels" is increasingly necessary to stop the conflict, the killing, and the flight of innocent civilians.

He also called for a stronger "logic of dialogue," the only way for a true resolution of the crisis in a logic of "solidarity, trust and hope."

"We need actions and clear and strong fatwas condemning what is happening," he said as he addressed Muslim leaders directly.

At the end of the service, those present gathered in the church square.  Waving Iraqi flags, they denounced the logic of division based on race, ethnicity or religious belief.

"We are all for Iraq our homeland and Iraq is for all," Muslims and Christians said in unison.

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