04/27/2012, 00.00
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Kirkuk, thanks to the Iraqi Church, which promotes "Bridges for Peace"

by Joseph Mahmoud
50 political and religious leaders gathered yesterday at the Archbishop’s residence signed a seven-point document for the harmony and coexistence. An appeal to the central government and the governor of Kurdistan, to solve problems "rather than complicate them." Mgr Sako: the value of diversity the foundation of coexistence.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) - The Iraqi central government and the governor of Kurdistan should "contribute to solving problems, rather than contribute to complicate them", because their decisions can have a "negative impact" particularly in the service sectors of the economy and on security. This is one of the seven points of the document signed yesterday in Kirkuk - Northeast Iraq - by more than 50 Iraqi intellectuals, political leaders and religious, during the conference "Building Bridges for Peace" sponsored by the local archdiocese. An event that has generated optimism and hope for the future, says Mgr. Louis Sako, because only thanks to "diversity" can you really live in "dialogue" and "respect for the rights of others." Hopes which are also shared by other participants and signatories, including the Kurdish parliamentarian Sheik Lattif Guli, who said: "Now, thanks to the Church, we have become 50 bridges for peace."

During the forum yesterday in the large conference room inside the Chaldean archbishop's residence, discussions focused on political, social, religious reconciliation in the presence of prominent local and national personalities. After the meeting, over 50 attendees signed a document in seven points, to "concretely" implement the purposes of peace, peaceful coexistence and development of the whole region.

In detail, the document states: the first point, the call to "live together and respect the diverse mosaic" of the city of Kirkuk, according to the principles of "harmony and respect", and second, to promote a dialogue because " violence neither changes nor improves the situation ", the third point, an end to speeches and initiatives that lead to" hatred, marginalization, exclusion "; fourth, the hope that we can" by consensus " arrive at the election of provincial Council members; the fifth point, solutions to the situation of prisons and a faster and more efficient justice system; sixth, the appeal "to the central government and the government of Kurdistan" to "really solve the problems" rather than "worsen them", the seventh and last the birth of a "committee" responsible for monitoring compliance with the "diversity and difference" and that "promotes a concrete dialogue."

Commenting yesterday, Msgr. Louis Sako - Archbishop of Kirkuk and soul of the initiative - expressed cautious optimism: "Our presence - he explains to AsiaNews - together as one family to build bridges of peace is a great asset. Thus we can express our unity and brotherhood" . The bishop warns that we must "accept each other and respect each other" starting "from our diversity, our legitimate differences". "Dialogue is born from respect for the rights of others - he adds - to be different in nationality, culture, language, religion and sex." He remembers the Gospel of Matthew, in the passage where Christ mentions the law of the Prophets: "Do unto others - says Mgr. Sako - what you would have others do unto you. This is the only rule for harmonious coexistence."

Kirkuk, with its 900 thousand inhabitants, has long been the center of a political-ethnic conflict between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. The latter would like to annex the area to the Kurdistan region, but Arabs and Turkmen uphold the link with the Iraqi central government. The city has been the scene of several targeted attacks, which struck the Christian minority on several occasions, and which are exacerbated by an economic component: the subsoil in the region is rich in oil and gas the exploitation and control of which is disputed by the different warring factions.


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