Baghdad (AsiaNews) – At a time of escalating tensions and violence, Muslims leaders have expressed their solidarity with Iraqi Christians. Yesterday, some 20 sheikhs from Arab tribes in Nassiriyia, Kerbala, Diwaniyia, Imara, and Basra visited the Chaldean Archbishop’s Residence in Kirkuk to present their best wishes for the New Year, but also and especially to express their solidarity with Christians as well as voice their concern over mass Christian migration, particularly after the attack against Baghdad’s Syriac-Catholic cathedral on 31 October, and a Coptic church in Alexandria (Egypt) on 31 December.
During lunch with Archbishop Louis Sako, the Muslim leaders expressed their outrage and condemned the attacks against Christians. “Iraq without Christians would not be Iraq,” one of the sheikhs said. Another noted that his tribe was Christian before the arrival of Islam in the 7th century, adding that “we cannot forget our roots.” Others highlighted the need “to strengthen the spirit of brotherhood because we are all children of Adam and Abraham.”
The sheikhs gave Mgr Sako a gift, a sword to symbolise their offer of protection to Christians. The archbishop thanked them but said that “the Christian sword is love”.
“As the Pope said, the attack against innocent people offends God and humanity. If we want to build life together and in harmony, we must educate our children to respect those who are different from us in terms of religion, culture or ethnicity, and respect the human mosaic that God created,” the Chaldean archbishop said. “Destroying it is to destroy not only peace but life itself.”
After the meal, the entire Muslim delegation visited Kirkuk cathedral and listened to Mgr Sako explain the Christian prayer and how, within the church, men and women praise God.
In the meantime, Christians are still losing their lives in Baghdad. On Sunday night, Rafah Butros Toma, a 44-year-old unmarried Christian woman, was murdered in her home. She was one of the worshippers who survived the al-Qaeda massacre at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral on 31 October. She worked at a local university and lived alone after her old father moved to a village in northern Iraq. She never stopped going to church.