Patriarch of Baghdad addresses UN, calling for new laws against states or individuals who support terrorists
by Louis Raphael I Sako*
The Security Council is meeting in a French-sponsored session dedicated to Christians and persecuted minorities in the Middle East. Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako hopes to see the international community provide its full support to Iraqi and Kurdish authorities. He also calls for strict laws against terrorism, as well as actions in favour education reform and exegeses of sacred texts that oppose extremism.

New York (AsiaNews) – Today, the United Nations Security Council will hold a French-sponsored meeting dedicated to the tragedy of Christians and other persecuted minorities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

France, which currently chairs the Council, called for a debate on the conditions of those victimised by the Islamic State and other extremist groups in the region because of their faith or ethnicity. This is the first-ever debate dedicated to the persecution of Christians at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

During the special meeting, Chaldean Patriarch Raphael I Louis Sako will talk about the plight of Christian refugees, hundreds of thousands of people driven from their homes and forced to survive in shelters or temporary dwellings for months.

In his address, His Beatitude will note how the “Arab Spring impacted negatively on us,” failing to achieve “peace, stability and progress”. He will call on the international community to support Iraq’s Central Government and the Regional Government of Kurdistan in Erbil.

Finally, in his address, he will call for opposition to religious fundamentalism and terrorism through concrete proposals for future coexistence between people of different faiths.

The latter include laws promoting equality, moderate language by of religious leaders and opposing extremism as well as a reformed educational system and exegeses of sacred texts based on "zero tolerance" for violent tendencies.

At the same time, human rights organisations and civil society groups should be supported and strict laws applied against nations or individuals who in various ways fund or support terrorism.

Here is the full text of Patriarch Sako’s UN address, sent to AsiaNews:

On behalf of Christians of different ethnic and cultural denominations who are facing and enduring severe trial in the Middle East, I extend my thanks to the French government for leading this humanitarian initiative, especially to the French Minister of Foreign Affairs H. E. Laurent Fabius.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you may know, this year is the centenary of the massacres against Christians in 1915. Now a hundred years later, we are living a similar catastrophic situation, which pushes many families to leave the country. It is a big loss for all. Frankly, the so-called Arab Spring impacted negatively on us. While if we had the opportunity of working in harmony with the mosaic of religions and ethnic groups in our region, there would have been a driving force in the region towards peace, stability and progress.

From this tribune, I would like to convey a message inspired by the spiritual and humanitarian values: The positive coexistence, on the basis of justice and peace in the spirit of love and citizenship, should remain at the upper level of priorities for the Security Council and the United Nations.

With regards to my country, I call for supporting the Central Government and the Regional Government of Kurdistan towards the liberation of all Iraqi cities and for us Christians, Yezidis and Shabaks especially  the city of Mosul as well as the towns in the Nineveh plain and villages; providing an International Protection for their inhabitants, who were forced to be displaced from their homes (Secure Zone); and promulgating a Real Estate and Property Law that ensure their rights in their lands, and enabling them to return home and resume their lives in a normal way. There is also a responsibility for the Central Government to compensate them for the damages incurred.

The major problem lies in understanding the different factors of state: religion, citizenship, individuals, community, the role of woman and the national education, in order to live together in peace and respect.

The Islamic extremist groups refuse to live with non-Muslims. They are persecuting and uprooting them from their homes and erasing their history (the memory). It is an ideological crisis and a way to monopolize the power, disabling institutions and restricting freedom.

This horrifying situation needs to establish principles, based on international laws, aiming to prevent this catastrophic discrimination against the human being and the mankind.

At the same time, it is important to understand that these terroristic acts should not be generalized to all Muslims. In fact, there is a silent and peaceful majority of Muslims that reject such politicization of the religion; they are accepting to live a common live with others within the civil state and according to the law.

Peace and stability cannot be achieved solely by military actions; as they are unable to dismantle this clustered way of thinking that destroys human beings and stones – the civilisation.

This indicates that the international community including the Arab League and the Conference of the Islamic Countries are required to take legal decisions and definitive measures. This could be achieved by adopting political, cultural and educational solutions. These solutions should be appropriate to protect the national mosaic represented by individuals, persons and groups regardless of their religion and ethnic background. They have to safeguard the rights of the all citizens and strengthen the relations among them.

Particular attention should be paid to a more significant threat. Millions of children and young people are deprived of schools and education. Millions of refugees are being in camps without care and attention. The growing frustration, unemployment and poverty could easily develop an atmosphere of revenge and extremism. Therefor there is the necessity to take care of these refugees responding to their needs and decreasing their pain.

A practical process is proposed to get out of this vicious cycle:

1.       To claim, through the United Nations, the executive policy-based on updating of the constitutions and laws. This would promote justice, equality and dignity for all, as citizens without discriminating a group in a favour of another. It is imperative that our countries acquire civil governments where   equality is granted among all citizens. These governments are responsible for the protection of all individuals and preserve the integral rights of all their citizens.

2.       To encourage religious leaders so as to adopt a moderate discourse that deepens the sense of citizenship. They have to adopt a culture of belonging to their country and not exclusively to their religious denominations or tribes. A necessary factor is the reform of educational programs that would enhance the principles of respect between citizens and promote tolerance and communication. This would condemn division, hatred and spirit of revenge. All this will protect generations from the consequences of extremism, violence and terrorism. In order to achieve this, the Religious Hierarchy has to present an appropriate exegetic explanation of the religious texts, with zero tolerance to extracting the religious texts from their contexts.

3.       To pass a law that criminalizes all states and individuals who support terrorist groups financially or intellectually or with arms, and held them accountable, and consider their acts as a crime towards social peace.

4.       To promote the development of organizations for human rights and civil society. These organizations should be supported such that they don't only have a consulting role, but rather an executive one and thus on both levels: the regional and the international one.

Thank you and best wishes for your humanitarian mission

*Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and president of the Bishops' Conference of Iraq