06/11/2007, 00.00
IRAQ
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Kirkuk: Muslims and Christians united for dialogue, only way to save Iraq

Sunnis and Shiites, tribal leaders, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians meet at luncheon organised by the city Chaldean archdiocese to fight those who would like to destroy peaceful coexistence between religions. Prime Minister al-Maliki’s spokesman says the government is opposed to the Nineveh Plains plan and the country’s division in ghettoes. Ayatollah al-Sistani receives Christian leaders and expressed his solidarity towards them.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – A small sign of hope for dialogue and peaceful coexistence in Kirkuk has appeared on the horizon as Iraqis face their daily tragedy and growing threats of a divided and sectarian country. On Sunday the Chaldean archdiocese organised a luncheon for the city’s popular council. Sunni and Shia clergymen, tribal leaders, civil society activists, representatives of the city’s Arab, Kurdish, Turkmen and Christian communities expressed their condolences for the death of Fr Ragheed Ganni and three subdeacons in Mosul, condemning “every act that can destroy peaceful coexistence between religions and which has nothing to do with Islam.”

Archbishop Louis Sako, promoter of the initiative, expressed his regrets for the suicide attack that destroyed the Al-Thikalain Husseiniyah Shia Mosque the day before in Dakuk, 35 km south of Kirkuk, killing and wounding 25 people.

In his address the prelate reiterated “the authenticity of the Christian presence in Iraqi soil and the importance it has always had and still has from a cultural, human and civil perspective.” He stressed the importance of dialogue between the country’s various components, especially between Muslims and Christians, as “the only way to save the whole of Iraq.”

Meanwhile sources from within the government suggest that the cabinet opposes plans to set up a Christian “ghetto” on the Nineveh Plains. Al-Hura radio interviewed yesterday Yonadam Kanna, a member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and a former member of Iraq’s transitional government, who said that Christians should be able to freely choose where to live in Iraq.

During the same show, the spokesman for Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, Shia Ali al-Dabbagh, said that the government “is categorically contrary to the project, and opposed to the division of the country in ghettoes or cantons.”

He also said that the “authorities appreciate the position of the Holy See against a ‘safe haven” for Christians,” which Pope Benedict XVI reiterated in his meeting with US President George W. Bush in the Vatican last Saturday.

According to al-Dabbagh, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani received some Christian religious leaders and expressed his support for them. However, their names and identities have been withheld for security reasons.

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