01/11/2011, 00.00
IRAQ - VATICAN
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Iraqi bishop: Pope’s words encourage commitment to remain in our land

by Louis Sako*
For Msgr. Sako Benedict XVI's speech is a source of "encouragement". Christians are"authentic" citizens and should enjoy "all rights" and the most important is religious freedom. "Religious fanaticism" is the greatest threat to the harmonious coexistence between different faiths, peace is based on freedom.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - In yesterday's speech to the diplomatic corps, Benedict XVI has strongly denounced the violence and injustice against Christians - with references to Iraq, Egypt and Nigeria - and emphasised religious freedom, defined as " fundamental for peace-building. " AsiaNews receives and publishes a commentary by Msgr. Louis Sako, Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk (northern Iraq), on the speech. The prelate thanks Benedict XVI because he is a "shepherd who is deeply united to his flock " and stresses that his words are “a source of strength in the fight for our land and our churches. "

The most important issue for our region, the Middle East, is religious freedom, namely the freedom of conscience of every individual. We Iraqis are visibly experiencing religious intolerance, discrimination, and persecution both Christians and Muslims. The pope is aware of what is going on and clearly states as much when he says that the violations, the many violations, bloody or not, are rooted in this. The list starts from the East and confirms Asia as that the continent, where religious freedom is most violated.

Religious fanaticism has become, unfortunately, a phenomenon that represents a real challenge for a harmonious coexistence between different religions. For this reason the Pope emphasizes that religious freedom is the foundation of peace: "Freedom of religion – he clearly states - is the fundamental path for the building of peace."

The nations of the Middle East are governed in one way or another, by theocracies. These countries should understand more so than nations that have a secular government, the value of freedom of religion affects every relationship and all activities. It is easier to understand the words of Benedict XVI when he says: "Peace, in fact, is built and preserved only when people can freely seek and serve God in their heart, life and relations with others." This respect is tied to the dignity of the human person as an absolute value after God.

It is absurd to commit murder in the name of God, who is love for us Christians and is all merciful for our Muslim brothers! The violation of a human life is an offense against God, the Creator of life and humanity. Religion imposed by force, does not from God! The pope is a shepherd, a father profoundly united to his flock, and he suffers for it and tries to protect it with all his moral force. This is why he speaks of the tragedy of Christians in Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere. It is a picture that begins with Iraq, where " attacks have sown death, pain and confusion among Christians," "enough to push them to leave the land where their ancestors have lived for centuries” and then Egypt, with the recent massacre of Alexandria.

Do we really need to repeat it again? Middle Eastern Christians are original and authentic citizens, loyal to their country and loyal to all their domestic duties. It is only natural that they should be able to enjoy their full rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience and religion, freedom in teaching and education, in the use of media.

With these words of encouragement expressed by the pope, we are comforted in the commitment to remaining in our land and in our churches. To witness the Lord's love and forgiveness that embraces all.

 

* Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk

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