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» 04/20/2009
IRAQ
Nineveh Plain: a ghetto for Iraqi Christians is an illusion
by Louis Sako*
The Archbishop of Kirkuk comes out against a plan promoted by Iraqi political and religious leaders leaving abroad to set up a Christian enclave in the Nineveh Plain. The idea is meant to “save Christians” from attacks and violence, but it runs against Iraqi history and Christians’ mission and could accentuate the ongoing ethnic and religious confrontation in the country.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – Some political, intellectual and religious leaders from outside of Iraq have recently called for an autonomous zone, a “safe heaven”, for Christians.1 Now that the idea of an autonomous region in southern Iraq is no longer being discussed this interference will create serious problems. I express here my concerns as a pastor, not a politician.

Those who back the plan for Nineveh Plain live in relative security whilst we Iraqi Christians are exposed to terrorist attacks and death. Perhaps their noble intent is to help us but in fact they are acting without consulting us to determine our fate and future. Thus they pretend to decide on our behalf without any mandate.

The future of Iraqi Christians must be examined first and foremost by Christians who live in Iraq—Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syriacs and Armenians—through the mediation of competent and disinterested political leaders called to take a clear position on the future of Christians.

Diaspora Christians can help us by maintaining awareness about our fate in world public opinion, but they should not take our place. We need to be helped so our right to determine our destiny can be recognised. Anyone who acts as our guardian in the end helps those who want to keep in a minority state.

In today’s Iraqi context the demand for a Christian enclave is a dangerous political game. It will be exploited by others and will be used against us. We must be objective, realistic and prudent. A Christian ghetto can inevitably lead to endless sectarian, religious and political clashes. Our freedom will be reduced.

We Christians are a fundamental component of the history and culture of Iraq. We are a significant presence in the social and religious life of the country and we feel Iraqi. We have resisted threats and persecution and have found ways to continue to live and bear witness to the Gospel in our land without ceasing being loyal citizens even at the cost of the lives of our fathers, brothers and sons.

Today we want to continue to be present and bear witness in all of our land, in the whole of Iraq. Demanding the creation of a ghetto is especially against the Christian message which sees us as the salt and yeast in the dough of humanity.

A good thing for the Christian community of this country is to encourage national unity, democracy, peaceful coexistence, a pluralistic culture, mutual recognition as humans with dignity, as well as cooperation with everyone to build a better society based on the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as guaranteed by the nation’s constitution and international law.

*Archbishop of Kirkuk

1. The plan to set up an “Assyrian ghetto” in the Nineveh Plains is strongly backed by the Christian Diaspora in the United States, which is exercising great influence on the Patriarchate of Baghdad, by Evangelical Christians, and by Kurdistan’s Finance Minister Sarkis Aghajan, who in the last few years has provided large funds for the reconstruction of many villages and churches in the north. The Vatican has never taken an explicit position on the issue but its Secretariat of State has been against the idea. Last January Benedict XVI, during the ad limina visit by Chaldean bishops, insisted that Christians must build ties of understanding “between Christians and Muslims’ and offer a “disinterested witness of charity [. . .] without distinction of origin and religion.”


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See also
06/06/2007 IRAQ
Chaldean synod: the names of two new bishops leaked
05/15/2008 IRAQ
Pressures to annex northern Christian villages to Kurdistan
08/16/2007 IRAQ
Ethnic cleansing first against Yazidis, soon against Christians
08/13/2014 IRAQ
Patriarch of Baghdad: USA, EU and the Arab League must clear Nineveh plain of Jihadists
by Louis Raphael I Sako *
06/19/2007 IRAQ
Nineveh Plains project to destroy dialogue, only path for peace
by Louis Sako*

Editor's choices
IRAQ-ITALY
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul," the thanks of the Patriarch Louis Sako; the concerns of the Bishop of Kurdistan
by Bernardo CervelleraThe head of the Chaldean Church is grateful for the AsiaNews campaign and hopes that "this chain of solidarity will reach far and wide”. Helping refugees to remain in Iraq. But many want to flee abroad. The bishop of Amadiyah where thousands of displaced people have found haven in churches and homes: We also help the Arabs (Muslims), and Yazidis, for free and without looking at our confessional differences.
ITALY - IRAQ
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul" to respond directly to Iraq's emergencyAsiaNews is launching a fundraiser to support Christians targeted by the Islamic State, thus responding to a request by the Patriarch of Baghdad and Pope Francis's urgent appeal "to guarantee all necessary assistance - especially the most urgently needed aid - to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others." More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes leaving everything behind and now have nothing to live on. To help them, five euros a day are enough. The funds raised will be sent to the Patriarchate of Baghdad, which will distribute them according to the needs of each family.
CHINA - VATICAN
Wenzhou bishop and priests slam government's campaign against crosses and churches in Zhejiang
by Eugenia ZhangFor Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, from the official Church, the campaign of destruction is increasing social instability. It is real persecution against the Christian faith. The bishop apologises for failing to intervene sooner. He was hoping that the campaign would end quickly. Catholics and Protestants suffer injuries as they attempt to defend their sacred buildings. For priests in Wenzhou, the campaign is unfair and touches buildings that have all the right papers. Such "stupid acts" by the government are undermining social harmony.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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