07/04/2017, 12.46
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Baghdad Patriarch: The post-ISIS future of Nineveh is in the hands of locals

by Louis Raphael Sako*

In a note shared with Iraqi bishops, Mar Sako outlines the prospects of the Nineveh Plain after the devastation inflicted by the Islamic state. The indigenous peoples of the region have the task of rebuilding politically, socially and humanly. Christians and Muslims are jointly committed to living together according to the principles of citizenship and the rule of law. External and foreign interference must end.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – There is a lot of talk about the future of the townships of Nineveh Plain before and after ISIS. Part of such talk is logical and acceptable, and part is merely dreams or wishes that cannot come true. The following are highlights about what we see in our Church in Iraq regarding this critical matter.

Who has the right to talk about the future of Nineveh Plain?

This question is raised to get logical answers, and those logical answers, involve, in our opinion, the data below:

– Those who have the right to talk about the future of Nineveh Plain are mainly the indigenous people of the region, with the question of whether there are united political parties that truly represent them for all their political aspirations. Though we appreciate those who are not from the region or those who left the country for many years living in diaspora countries, with all the suffering they feel, they cannot talk about the future of this region because they are away from the current situation and what is really going on. They cannot talk about the concerns of the region’s inhabitants. Yet, they are encouraged, according to their capabilities, to help the indigenous people renovate their homes, The Church is the only one that helps.

– Our opinion stated above is clarified by that the people of Nineveh Plain are those who should draw a map of the region with their Muslim and Non-Muslim neighbors. This map should be feasible and far from any foreign agendas or personal narrow-minded interests.

– It is very sensitive that this matter is discussed in one way or another in isolation from the critical and worrying situation of Christians because most of the people of Nineveh Plain are currently forcibly displaced with their homes demolished or burned and infrastructure nearly destroyed. This led many of these families to leave the country.

– It is now obligatory, more than ever, for the people of Nineveh Plain, and Christians in general, to strengthen their unity, leave useless quarrels, create a healthy and relaxed atmosphere for thinking, discussion, dialogue, which leads to collective action in order to:

1) Be realistic and rational after all that they have suffered.

2) Choose their representatives from among the sages and wise people of their townships, who are recognized for intellectual capability, honesty, and free expression, to hold serious meetings inside and not outside the country, together with, not in isolation from, their neighbors, guaranteeing for themselves a better future. 

Christians of Nineveh Plain and their neighbors

– The Christians of Nineveh Plain have a long history with their Muslim neighbors, from among loyal citizens, who were also victims of ISIS. Thus, the Christians of Nineveh Plain know in categorical terms that their neighbors' history with them cannot be reduced by ISIS terrorism.

– It is of significant that the Christians of Nineveh Plain realize that there are common lines with their neighbors that are indispensable, so that they are enabled to develop their regions and achieve their progress. They have shared with them their pains, joys, and customs throughout generations as neighbors and friends.

In a reference to the cultural and moral interaction, especially during catastrophic circumstances, I would like to present this living example. Last week, I visited two families that returned to the town of Karemlash. One family was Christian and the other was Shabak-Muslim. The two families speak Chaldean and have the same customs, traditions, and good neighborliness.

Common demands, unified position and security priority

The following are some points that cannot be disputed for their necessity:

– Agreeing to common and acceptable demands, that are enforceable according to the Constitution and international laws. Agreeing to a unified and clear position for discussion with the central and the regional governments.

– Providing security and stability, to the possibility of requesting international control. The people of Nineveh Plain need to be reassured because of what they have suffered from conflicts, wars, displacement, and marginalization.

A wish before the local and international public opinion

Last but not least, I can only express this wish which I have already expressed to the local, regional, and international public opinion: I truly believe that the only solution for all citizens is to establish an advanced, democratic & civilized system by which justice and equality are achieved. This is the only way to end many current problems.

This, too, is another occasion to appeal to the Iraqi government to fulfill its obligations to impose security and law; to reconstruct these townships with their homes, schools, institutions, official services, streets, hospitals, and churches; and to help the citizens by listening to them and meeting their true and legitimate demands. This appeal may represent a minimum commitment to what the government ought to do.

These ideas express the vision of the Chaldean Church, for all its twenty bishops have seen them.

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

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