Card Sako’s New Year message calls for overcoming divisions, tensions to reform Iraq
Change must start in families, churches, mosques, schools and the media. Differences must be preserved and values such as "love, tolerance and forgiveness" must be strengthened. Extremists exploit religion for political and economic ends. The fragmentation and dispersion of society must be fought.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Card Louis Raphael Sako, primate of the Chaldean Church, released his New Year message to Iraqi Christians and Diaspora communities who still maintain strong ties with their homeland.
In it he called on the faithful to go beyond the “divisions and tensions” that affect the country and the Middle East so as to "change reality with confidence"”. This can be done by working hard to “reform education, health and infrastructures”.
“Change begins with education at home, schools, churches and mosques, and the media,” he explained. What is more, for the prelate, despite differences, “real happiness” entails “loving and respecting each other as brothers and sisters”.
Since Christians and Muslims share the same "homeland and history", it is everyone's duty to “preserve it and work for its prosperity by maintaining its diversity”, starting with essential values like “love, tolerance and forgiveness”.
Card Sako noted that the first day of the new year is always dedicated to peace and hope, especially for renaissance after a troubled period characterised by “conflict, tensions, disease (COVID-19), hunger and thirst” that are leading people towards a “slow death”.
“Peace is achieved when it is part of personal behaviour. This requires the ability to practice tolerance, forgiveness, solidarity and collaboration,” as Pope Francis said in his message. Peace, Card Sako points out, is “a human, religious and national requirement” for everyone.
For the cardinal, Iraq has been through “very difficult circumstances, not only after the fall of [Saddam Hussein's] regime but throughout our history,” with challenges and struggles, but now the time has come to “get out of this deadly situation”.
The Chaldean patriarch’s message comes at time of serious concerns over Iraq’s fate. On 21 December, the Chaldean Church held a day of fasting and prayer for a country seeking "a new balance" and a future of "development and security".
The cardinal’s message is not addressed only to Christians, but to everyone who holds the Arab country in their heart, Muslims included, at a time of political and institutional uncertainty following last October’s parliamentary elections.
In late December, Card Sako took part in a talk sponsored by Iraq’s Ministry of Culture, moderated by Saad Salloum, an academic, during which he said that violence and extremism “are not linked to religion" but to its "understanding" and “interpretation”.
The exploitation of religion by extremists for "political or economic ends” is the main issue. It is sad to note that “killings still continue today under the cloak of God and religion” while "Frustration and silence reinforce corruption, extremism and violence".
From a perspective of peace and tolerance, the media play a fundamental role since they should carry “messages” and create a "culture and awareness”, and not engage in “provocations”.
In closing, he stressed the importance of "spiritual education in mosques and churches", which represent a point of reference “amid fragmentation and dispersion in our society”.
Religious leaders "must re-read" matters of faith “in a positive way, highlighting the richness of the various communities”. Such a “healthy spiritual relationship will facilitate coexistence in a multi-religious country.”