As January death toll tops 1,300, concrete actions, not words, are needed, says Baghdad patriarch
by Joseph Mahmoud‚Ä®
Speaking at a conference held as part of a government-sponsored 'Week of harmony between different religions', Mar Sako called for a stop to funding to terrorism and an end to the culture of violence. He also called for an end to the criminal use of religion. Meanwhile, in Mosul, the Islamic State set up a market for goods stolen from Christians. Last month, almost 800 civilians lost their life.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - "Condemnation alone is not enough. Let us start the treatment by drying up the [financial] sources of extremism and terrorism, by blocking this terrifying culture and its theoreticians and promoters, and by creating a new, open, and positive culture that respects diversity and difference," said His Beatitude Mar Raphael I Louis Sako.

For the Chaldean patriarch, who spoke at a conference held over the weekend in Baghdad as part of a 'Week of harmony between different religions', it is necessary to "change" how history and religion are taught in schools and elsewhere.

Emphasis must be placed on "positive" elements and on the importance of "respect" in every faith. Hence, "We must be united and do something before it is too late," he warned.

The conference (pictured), which focused on inter-faith harmony, was held last Saturday as part of a week of events dedicated to coexistence among religions. Iraqi President Fouad Massoum and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi attended the event. Iraqi Parliamentary Speaker Salim al-Jabouri, lawmakers, ministers, ambassadors as well as Muslim, Yazidi and Sabean religious leaders were also present at the meeting.

President Massoum, Prime Minister al-Abadi, and Parliamentary Speaker al-Jabouri expressed words in favour of "reconciliation" and about the "indissolubility" of "national unity" and called for action to ensure decent living conditions for "the people of Iraq" as a whole.

In his address, Mar Sako spoke against those who exploit religion for "criminal and terrorist purposes" and carry out violent actions. In his view, "We must stop saying that they are done in God's name" because "we should not kill, we should not steal, we should not . . ."

The patriarch warned that all religions are victimised: Christians are dying, Muslims are dying, Sabeans are dying, Yazidis are dying, Arabs are dying, and Kurds are dying.

For the Chaldean Patriarch, it is time to "reject" the culture of death, and put an end to conflicts and disagreements in order to become promoters of true reconciliation and thus "save the country and its people" from murders, migration, stealing and the destruction of personal property and infrastructures.

Meanwhile, sources in Islamic State-held Mosul told that Jihadist militants are operating a special market for stolen goods seized by terrorists when Christians fled their homes. The goods include items taken from Christians' homes, now occupied by Muslims, as well as objects stolen from the city's churches.

Anonymous witnesses said that the market is known as "Spoils of Nasara" (Spoils of Nazarene, i.e. Christians). The stolen goods include TVs, refrigerators, cooling systems and a variety of electrical devices.

As a result of fighting and other acts of violence at least 1,375 people died last month in Iraq, including 790 civilians. The dead included 585 members of the Iraqi army.

At least 2,240 civilians and soldiers were wounded during the same period in bomb attacks, targeted killings and other acts of violence.

UN sources warn, however, that the number of victims could be much higher, since the fighting between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants has prevented an exact tally of the casualties, particularly in Jihadist-controlled areas like Mosul.