11/16/2017, 18.13
IRAQ
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Bishop Warduni calls for a new constitution for the rebirth of a secular and united Iraq

For the Chaldean Church, it is crucial to revamp the foundational charter of the state on the basis of the principles of equality and human rights. Some sharia-based rules are unacceptable in a modern and civilian state. The conflict between Arabs and Kurds, and between Erbil and Baghdad, is likely to trigger a new Christian exodus.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - For Iraq’s rebirth, it is necessary to reform the constitution, “which is the basis of the country’s unity,” and enshrine the principles of equality and human rights, this according to Mgr Shlemon Audish Warduni, auxiliary bishop of Baghdad.

Speaking to AsiaNews, the right-hand man of the Chaldean patriarch Louis Sako, reiterated the commitment of Christians "to peace, security and civil coexistence". Iraq is a rich land, he noted, but it "lacks the will" to achieve this.

Such a goal requires a renewed commitment of the various components of the nation, on the basis of the principle of equality. All citizens must be equal before the constitution. In fact, no nation in the world can "exist without a Charter", Mgr Warduni said.

At the same time, reconstruction after years of war and sectarian violence must be based on the pillars of "justice and freedom." However, the prelate wonders how can we talk about "freedom of conscience" when the basis of governance is "sharia, Islamic law," which guarantees a dominant position to Muslims over other ethno-religious groups.

In the past, the leaders of the Iraqi Church expressed their opposition to Iraq’s controversial constitution, in particular Article 37-2, which does not protect religious freedom and the rights of minorities.

In September 2015, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako sent a letter to Parliament asking for an amendment to the paragraph that says that a minor must be registered as a Muslim if one of the two parents converts to Islam.

Recently, the Chaldean Patriarch, on a visit to France, called for changes to Iraq’s constitution to ensure the "equality of all citizens", and that religion would be a matter of "personal choice". Religion, the prelate explained, should not influence the normal conduct of state affairs.

"Today the priority for Iraqis is security and stability." To achieve this, the country needs international help so that it can start up again on a "sane, non-sectarian" basis.

For this reason, it is not enough to replace bricks and mortar unless there is desire to remake a people and a society deeply affected by the devastation of the Islamic State group. The latter might have been defeated militarily but its ideology has not.

To reach this goal, it is necessary to change the 2005 constitution, which is based on a religious and sectarian definition of citizenship, a change that “some secular Muslim leaders want as well”.

To exemplify the problem, Mgr Warduni cites two situations. In the first, when a father or a mother converts to Islam, their children also become Muslim. Only when they reach 18 can the latter choose to become Christian again. “Where is equality, freedom and justice in all this?” the prelate asks. The second touches underage girls. In some cases, "nine-year-old girls" are allowed to wed.  This is "unacceptable”, but some lawmakers in parliament want to put this into law.

Over the past few weeks, a coalition that includes women’s groups, activists, artists, and clerics has sought to scrap this "shameful" rule.

Mgr Warduni also addressed the issue of the disastrous row between the central government in Baghdad and the government of the Kurdish autonomous region in Erbil.

This conflict has affected the Christian community, making it hard for many Christians to go home after the Islamic State was driven out.

"We Christians provide some balance,” Warduni noted. “We want all of the country’s components to work for reconciliation. Yet, there are those who continue to act for their own interest, for money, and this is not okay. The violence between Arabs and Kurds is likely to trigger a new massive exodus of Christians, already marked by war and the brutalities of the Islamic State." (DS)

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