Rome (AsiaNews ) - The " martyrdom " is " the charism of our Church " in Iraq , a country in which faith "is not an ideological issue " but " a mystical reality " the result of " a personal encounter with Christ." For this reason " persecuted Christians " can help our brothers and sisters around the world to " renew their faith and their commitment ." These are some passages from the address of the Chaldean patriarch of Baghdad , Mar Louis Sako, at a conference held recently in Rome , on the occasion of the XXVII edition of the International Meeting of Prayer for Peace promoted by the Community of Sant'Egidio. His Beatitude then emphasized the importance of the support of the West, which is a source of "courage" to " resist and stay in our land and in our churches " in the face of persecution and violence that have almost halved the population in 10 years.
The 2013 edition of the
international meeting , held in Rome from September 29 to October 1, focused on
the theme : "The courage to Hope - Religions and Cultures in
Dialogue" . The
meeting was attended by 400 representatives of the major religions and
representatives of European political and cultural life and from 60 countries across
the world. An
event that renews the "spirit of Assisi" , the destination of yesterday's
pilgrimage by the Pope in the footsteps of Saint Francis . Among
the topics covered in the three-day conference the 50th anniversary
of " Pacem in Terris " , the crisis in the Middle East and the role
of religions in Asia.
In his speech Patriarch Sako pointed out that " for us Christians of Iraq , martyrdom is the charism of our Church, dating back more than 2 thousand years. As a minority, we are continually faced with the difficulties and sacrifices, but we are aware that, being a Christian is not an easy choice, being a Christian really means to incorporate in Christ to be His witnesses, and can mean coming to the end, "to martyrdom". Martyrdom is not an ideology or a purpose as some people think, but it is a choice and a commitment. So martyrdom is a daily reality".
In a country torn apart by violence and sectarian, ethnic and political clashes Mar Sako said that martyrdom is the "absolute expression " of love for Jesus , as witnessed in October 2010 by Fr. Wassim in the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad when he cried out to the terrorists "Kill me, but free the faithful. He knew what he is saying: It is his commitment as a shepherd and as a lover of Christ and of his own parishioners."
The testimony of Iraqi Christians can help the faithful of the whole world " to find a meaning in life ," explains the Chaldean Patriarch , according to whom the prayers and celebrations " are strong and privileged moments of celebration, hope and joy." At the same time, the friendship and solidarity of the West are a source of courage to "resist and stay." Lastly , Mar Sako renews his call to Christians in the Middle East to " continue their testimony " , looking at suffering as " a true sign of hope and peace ." He asks the laity to be "more involved and active in the cultural , social and political development of their countries and not to be afraid to claim their civil rights and equality of citizenship ."