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    » 04/26/2012, 00.00

    IRAQ

    "Building bridges of peace", a project that unites Christians and Muslims in Kirkuk

    Joseph Mahmoud

    The Chaldean archbishopric holds a reconciliation forum today. Some 50 political, religious and cultural leaders attend the event. Mgr Sako presents a seven-point proposal, signed by participants, as a "joint commitment" to dialogue. A committee is set to see to its implementation.

    Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - The Chaldean Archbishopric of Kirkuk, northern Iraq, organised a reconciliation forum today on "Building bridges of peace", on the initiative of Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of the city. The meeting brought together Christian and Muslims leaders, altogether some 50 people, including politicians like the provincial governor, lawmakers, party chiefs and tribal sheiks; religious leaders from the Shia, Sunni and Christian communities; and representatives of the Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Assyrian-Chaldean communities.

    The forum comes a few days after a series of attacks left a trail of blood and destruction in Kirkuk as well as the rest of the country. Despite the departure of US troops, the situation has not improved and peace and security remain as elusive as ever.

    Today's meeting is "an opportunity for all parties" to sit around a table to talk "in a civilised manner", Church sources in Kirkuk said. This way they can try to solve problems and bridge divisions, thus "reducing tensions rather than make it worse with threats."

    Among the various speeches and interventions, Mgr Sako presented a seven-point proposal that participants signed as a joint "commitment" to dialogue and peace. An ad hoc committee made up of individuals from various backgrounds will be set up to evaluate the application of its principles and directives.

    In his address, Mgr Sako reiterated the principle of dialogue with Islam so that people can live together and overcome theological issues that today are unsolvable.

    For Christians, this means adopting a language that can be "understood" by the Muslim community. At the same time, a "secular civil society" is necessary based on "shared Iraqi citizenship."

    A number of plans are on the drawing board to achieve these goals. They include a kindergarten for 80 children (10 per cent Muslim) and an elementary school that should open in September.

    As those behind these initiatives note, coexistence begins in infancy.

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    See also

    10/08/2010 IRAQ
    Mgr. Sako’s Message for Ramadan in Kirkuk
    The Chaldean archbishop asks Muslims that this sacred month be a time of prayer and reconciliation. He calls on Christians to observe the Muslim fast, not to eat in public and to dress modestly. In recent years in Mosul and Baghdad bombings occurred even during Ramadan. Fears for the population and Christians.

    29/08/2009 IRAQ
    In Kirkuk Christian and Muslim leaders for dialogue and reconciliation
    At the invitation of Msgr. Sako, 50 religious leaders are meeting during Ramadan to launch an appeal to political leaders for an end to conflicts and divisions. "We are all brothers, sons of the same God we must respect and cooperate for the good of the people and our country."

    22/05/2009 IRAQ
    Kirkuk: young Christian teacher is freed thanks to help of Muslims
    Joint intervention of army and tribal leaders led to the release of Namir Nadhim Gourguis, kidnapped on May 14th last. No ransom was paid. Decisive the mediation between Imam and tribal chiefs. Msgr Sako: “the Christian community of Kirkuk rejoices”.

    16/05/2011 IRAQ
    Kirkuk: young Christian abducted, tortured and beheaded
    Ashur Yacob Issa, 29, was the father of three children. He was abducted three days ago. Negotiations for his released failed. This morning police found his body, which bore “horrific marks of torture”. In voicing his outrage, the archbishop of Kirkuk slammed this “inhuman act,” urging everyone to work together to “protect defenceless citizens”.

    11/03/2008 IRAQ
    Silence must not descend on Archbishop of Mosul
    The appeal was launched by the Archbishop of Kirkuk, 12 days on from Msgr. Rahoo’s abduction. To the Bishops and Christians of the world: “do not remain indifferent to this suffering, do not leave us alone to face this trial”. Amid increased fears, today in Kirkuk 15 Muslim leaders ask once again that the prelate be released.



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