07/17/2019, 13.39
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Archbishop of Basra: the Pope's visit, an opportunity for rebirth for Christians and Iraq

by Alnaufali Habib Jajou*

The country is still "in pieces" due to widespread corruption.  Insufficient government intervention to ensure rights for minorities and revive the nation.  Greater commitment to combat hatred and terrorism.  The presence of Francis is an opportunity for rebirth, but more effort is needed in terms of rights, education, development and citizenship.



 Basra (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis' visit to Iraq, scheduled for next year, represents a world stage for the Baghdad government to show itself close to Christians and active in defending the freedoms and rights of the entire population.  Because so far, the leaders of the country have done little or nothing to alleviate the "suffering" of the local community and "the situation remains a disaster," says the Chaldean Archbishop of Basra, Msgr.  Alnaufali Habib Jajou, according to whom the nation "is in pieces" because of a "widespread and visible corruption".

Basra is the most important center in the south of Iraq and was the scene in the recent past of serious episodes of violence, which led the Church to suspend all extra-pastoral activities.  In order for the pontiff's pastoral journey to truly be an occasion for rebirth for Christians and the country, the prelate indicates "some points" and "unresolved questions" on which "the government must work".

Here is the reflection that Msgr.  Habib Jajou entrusted AsiaNews:

[We Christians] must be equal in dignity and rights with other Iraqi citizens.  Too often we have seen how Christians are treated and considered second-class citizens.  Sometimes even as infidels.  For this reason it is necessary to prevent the formation of a second class citizenship, especially for Christians and other minorities that are affected and relegated to the margins by the Constitution and a sectarian culture.  So that the inequality and the limits inherent in the current law are addressed and resolved: because the last word always belongs to the law.

It is necessary to guarantee a true freedom to celebrate religious, national and religious-related celebrations.  We must preserve the language, the traditions, the saints, the patrons of the churches and be able to pay them homage.  And on these occasions it would be desirable to have adequate coverage in the national media and on the main television stations.

Religious institutions have the responsibility, personally, to talk about justice, equality and human dignity.  And, in their task, they should be encouraged by the civil state and its highest authorities.

We need constant and careful monitoring of those who foment hatred, divisions and discrimination, working to face and curb these irrational tendencies.  And work to create legislation that really punishes organizations and individuals that finance terrorism or encourage violence.

Better accommodation and decent housing must be provided.  If there was a common commitment aimed at creating small apartments for the poor, the latter would choose to stay rather than migrate.  And in addition to this, those students who decide to continue must be supported to improve their level of education.

Promote job opportunities, preventing them from being discriminated against by government entities or Islamic parties.  Each economic project must be strictly controlled.

Furthermore, it is necessary to correct the defects inherent in relations between Christians and Muslims, especially in cases of marriage and inheritance.  The Personal Status Act, in article 26, provides that "children must follow the religion of the parent who converts to Islam".  It represents an abuse of other faiths because it applies to minors in cases where their non-Muslim mother marries a Muslim man or if both parents convert to Islam.  Children must have the right to choose their religion.  And if parents ignore the law and children grow registered in that faith, when they turn 18, they face the fact that they automatically become Muslims.  Otherwise, they are accused of apostasy and thus become the object of persecution.

Article 2 of the Constitution establishes that Islam is the official religion of the State, represents a source of law and no law can be approved and applied if it contradicts the dictates of Islam.  At the same time, the article states that laws that contradict the principles of democracy cannot be approved.

On the subject of rights, it is necessary to promote equal opportunities between men and women, to protect the dignity of women and children.

It is also necessary to renew the educational and school curricula, so that they promote equality, religious freedom and forgiveness.  Christian history is completely absent from textbooks used in educational institutions in the country.

Added to this is the fundamental work of reconstruction of the infrastructures, to achieve true economic growth.  It requires real educational plans, which raise society to a new level.  And it is vital to pay attention to national unity, to the equitable sharing of wealth and to the implementation of good human rights policies.  In addition, it is imperative to hold against all ethnic languages ​​and minority social rights.  We strive for a nation in which, together, its inhabitants build a common life based on the camaraderie between the various parts.

 And finally, we hope for equality in the management of local affairs, especially with regard to the Nineveh Plain where the majority of its inhabitants are Christian.

 * Chaldean Archbishop of Basra

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