01/28/2008, 00.00
IRAQ
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Solidarity and donations are not enough, the Iraqi Church needs concrete projects

by Louis Sako*
Invited by "Aid to the Church in Need", the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk participated last week in meetings in Germany to sensitise Europe on the problems of Christians in Iraq. He explains that in order to contain the "mortal exodus" of the community, before words and economic offers, a serious effort is needed on the part of the Iraqi Church: for internal organisation, negotiations with the Kurdish government, and a new military impulse. "Without fear!".

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - The attacks that struck Christian targets in Baghdad, Mosul, and Kirkuk this month represent a clear message, and conceal straightforward questions: "With whom are the Christians aligned? What do they want? What political position do they have? What are their intentions for the plain of Nineveh?". After the bombs that exploded between January 6 and 17, the topic of the survival of the Assyro-Chaldean Church in Iraq has come back under the scrutiny of the Western media and public opinion. The West shows us great solidarity, and money is made available to the government of Kurdistan. But a perspective is lacking, in part because we ourselves, the Iraqi religious leaders, have not offered one. We have not told the world what we expect and what we need!

The mortal exodus that afflicts our community cannot be averted until the Iraqi Church itself takes a clear position on the political situation and constructs a courageous pastoral plan. The future of the Chaldean-Assyrian Church is in Iraq: this is its land, it is here that its history and heritage were formed, an important part of the wider universal Christian heritage. Church means mission. A Church in diaspora loses its identity. Over the course of history, the Christian presence has contributed greatly to the development of Iraq. Christians have been, and can continue to be today, an instrument of dialogue, peaceful coexistence, and collaboration with our Muslim brothers. Emptying the country of this community is a mortal sin.

The question that requires an urgent and decisive response is: "How can the Iraqi Christians be helped?". Our Church must reorganise itself and update not only its structure, but also its message. To survive these times, we need a strong Church, with a clear pastoral and "political" vision, with precise plans not only for protecting its faithful, but also for fostering reconciliation.

Almost half of the Christians, religious and laity live as refugees in neighbouring countries. And other continue to leave their homes. A first step could be that of helping this people to return to their villages of origin in the safer northern region, rather than promoting  their exit. They would thus be spared the miserable life that is offered to them in Syria or Jordan, and would limit their exodus to the West. To this end, it is indispensable to negotiate with the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan to create jobs, build houses, and study long and short-term projects. Kurdistan's minister of the economy, Sargis Aghajan, a Christian, is providing vast sums for the community. Some say these total 3 percent of oil revenues. Holland has offered 6 million euro. The United States, 10 million dollars. This money could be used to create schools, clinics, roads, technical institutes, nursing schools; to send religious men and women to open missions. We must not be afraid

*Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk

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