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  • » 09/04/2014, 00.00


    For Baghdad patriarch, Christians (and other minorities) risk extinction, calls for pluralism and unity against Islamism

    Louis Raphael I Sako *

    Mar Sako warns that the displaced are increasingly suffering, at risk of "genocide" and deprived of "religious, human, moral and national values." The international community and the Iraqi government must fight extremism. Christians also need to put aside the desire to emigrate and continue to be "leaven" of the earth. The struggle against the political use of religion starts with education.

    Baghdad (AsiaNews) - A month since the militias of the Islamic state made their push, resulting in the mass exodus of Christians, Yezidis and other minorities, Mar Raphael I Louis Sako warns that the suffering of the displaced is increasing.

    In a written appeal to AsiaNews, His Beatitude talks about the "genocide" of a people deprived of "religious, human, moral and national values", which is "threat for all." ">

    As he said in the past, the Chaldean patriarch notes that "emigration" is not a solution because Christians should continue to be the "leaven" in the land of Iraq and messengers of "hope."

    Condemning the timidity shown so far by the international community (and the Iraqi government) vis-à-vis Islamist violence, Mar Sako stresses the importance of "raising our voice against the extremists and work to create a new mentality of living together [among] Shiites, Sunnis, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Christians and Yezidis in peace and harmony".

    For this reason, it is necessary to take "offensive action at the ideological level" in the Islamic world to stop the religious and financial legitimation of fundamentalism.

    In addition to a peacekeeping force in Iraq and a UN commission of inquiry into Caliphate violence, the Chaldean Patriarch's first proposal is to change the school and university curriculum.

    "Only education," he says, "can commence this transformation and build a society where equality amongst citizens succeeds. To guarantee a better coexistence it is imperative to create a civil society which respects every religion and does not politicize religions for its own benefit.

    Here is the letter by the Chaldean Patriarch to AsiaNews:

    A whole month passed after the plight of Iraqi Christians and Yazidis and other minorities, as if it was meant to be. The curtains have been drawn on the painful events, and 120.000 Christians are uprooted from their historical homeland because the Political Islam does not want them there, and the world is silent, standing still, either because it approves or because it is incapable of acting. This encourages ISIS (which has nothing to do with the ancient Egyptian goddess of nature and fertility ISIS) to move forward with its ferocious war against culture and diversity and threatening the intellectual and social security. The suffering of the displaced Christians and other minorities is mounting: their needs are escalating and their fears of an unknown future of their shocked children, seized towns, and looted houses keep them sleepless! These people were living in their hometowns in prosperity, pride and dignity; in the blink of an eye, they were ousted from their homes, terrified and fleeing on foot in search of a shelter. It is a scene that takes us back to the dark centuries of the past although it has become a horrific reality of our present civilization!

    What these peaceful Christians and loyal citizens experienced is a real genocide, a sad ending, and a proof of the privation of the religious, human, moral, and national values. Therefore, it is a shameful stain in history. Everybody should know is a threat for all!

    Few days ago we saw the 13-year-old girl on Ishtar satellite channel, screaming: "I want to go back to my own town, Qaraqosh. I am tired of this life here; I would rather die for it rather than living here in humiliation". It's a loud call to the conscience of the world!

    The inability of the Iraqi State: What hurts us most is the inability of the machinery of the government to impose law and order in front of the on-going and significant deterioration of security, which fosters a culture of violence that provides the extremist groups a favorable locale to expand! In Baghdad, Christians and others are kidnapped in armored and shaded cars in broad daylight, and are threatened to leave their houses, and harassed in some schools and in some public offices where they hear spiteful words. Could these current barbarous behaviors be unleashed without any control or without a mechanism of re-education?

    The people are suffering and the politicians are fighting for positions instead of being united to identify the causes that lead to extremism, violence and injustice, and to seek radical solutions before it is too late! Hopefully the new Prime Minister and the new Government would recognize this as their historical, national and moral responsibility!

    Emigration: after being robbed of everything they had, including their official documents, and in the absence of an immediate solution along with the mistrust in the present authorities, the displaced Christians are faced with a pointless waiting for an unknown future. Therefore, many of them are in pursuit of a safe country in the West because in their country, the country of Manna and Quail, only disasters prevail. Emigration should be not a solution!

    In order to preserve themselves from extinction, and to keep being the leaven, the Christians of Iraq must face the situation as it is, especially because they carry the message of hope by which they can keep aflame the spark of life. Active and lively Christian groups must move to construct the future, because the challenges of life are faced with courage rather than cowardice. They have to take decisive steps to put pressure on the decision-makers at home and abroad to ensure a life, free and safe, for them in their own Iraq. And here are some practical suggestions that, hopefully, our people wherever they are, will work on making them real:

    - To form competent Christian organizations, both political and independent, with qualified staff who undertake permanent sessions of analyzing and studying situations and proposing solutions and apt plans to face the consequences arising both from present crisis and even from unforeseen!

    - To create a Crisis Management Team (CMT) to prepare an accurate statistical record of the displaced families in order to claim compensation from the government for the damages and loss of properties, and to help specific cases with solutions and recommendations.

    - To organize an Education Committee to keep track of the academic status and the figures of the displaced students and to ask the government of Kurdistan to host them in its schools and universities lest they lose their scholastic future taking into consideration that their number is considerably low.

    - To request the UN and other sponsor countries to help constructing decent and suitable housing complexes for those who do not want to be back to their villages, instead of current inappropriate tents.

    - To appeal the UN Security Council to form a United Nations peacekeeping force in collaboration with the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga for liberating the Nineveh Plain and for providing adequate security which allows the displaced persons to return to their home villages where they lived for thousands of years.

    - To establish local police force comprising the different components of the Nineveh Plain to protect the villages, as envisaged in the new law presented to the new government, which reassures social interaction among Christians and their fellow-citizens.

    - To demand the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the human rights violations in Iraq by establishing a commission of inquiry into the atrocities and crimes committed by the so-called "Islamic state" and to bring to justice those responsible behind these "crimes against humanity".

    - We should not give up in raising our voice against the extremists and work to create a new mentality of living together Shiites, Sunnites, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens, Christians and Yezidis in peace and harmony, therefore we also have to take offensive action at the ideological level with Islamic world to stop the veneer of religious legitimacy and financing and sending militants. We urge the Central Iraqi Government and the Regional Government of Kurdistan to spread the culture of openness, diversity, plurality and equal in the face of a culture of extremism, elimination, marginalization and social backwardness along with a weak individual and collective consciousness of its deficiency. This can be achieved primarily by changing the school and university curriculum. Only education can commence this transformation and build a society where equality amongst citizens succeeds. To guarantee a better coexistence it is imperative to create a civil society which respects every religion and does not politicize religions for its own benefits.

    *Louis Raphael Sako, patriarch and president of the Chaldean Bishops' Conference

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    See also

    07/08/2015 IRAQ
    For Mar Sako, one year after the Mosul tragedy, only unity and reconciliation can save Iraq
    On the first anniversary of the great exodus from the Nineveh Plain, the Chaldean Patriarch addresses a letter to Iraq’s government and parliament. In it, he denounces the difficult conditions in which Christians and Yezidis still live, as well as the thousands of deaths among Muslims. Peace is the only response to the violence of extremist groups who "exploit religion".

    23/01/2016 13:15:00 IRAQ
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    Yesterday, 40 men and women received the lectorate in Baghdad’s Cathedral of St Joseph. The Chaldean Patriarch emphasised women’s role in the community. For Mgr Yaldo, more than 600 people came together "in an atmosphere of serenity and sharing”. The celebration is part of planned events for the Year of Mercy.

    30/01/2014 IRAQ
    Mar Sako, a year as Patriarch: unity, dialogue and mission, the challenges of the Chaldean Church
    In a pastoral letter His Beatitude recounts the first year at the helm of the Chaldeans , and presents guidelines for the future. He does not forget the difficulties, the exodus of Christians and sectarian violence. The call to revive "the original charism" that helps believers to really live the "gift" of faith. The hope of peace and thoughts for our “brothers and sisters” in Syria and Lebanon.

    06/03/2013 IRAQ
    Baghdad welcomes new patriarch, Louis Sako, who appeals to the faithful "not to be afraid"
    Saint Joseph's Cathedral hosted the ceremony of enthronement of His Beatitude Mar Louis Raphael I. The latter thanked his predecessor and renewed the offer to work with Muslims. Prime Minister al-Maliki stressed the importance of Iraq's Christian community, urging them "not to emigrate".

    30/01/2016 13:30:00 IRAQ
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    In a pastoral letter marking the third anniversary of his election, the Chaldean patriarch and primate of the Iraqi Church stresses achievements and outlines future challenges. In the Year of mercy, the latter include the need to forgive and be forgiven, and strong Christian political leaders to defend the rights of Iraq’s Christian community.

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