Louis Sako: Two years on from expulsion of Christians from Mosul and Nineveh
In a message issued today, the Chaldean Patriarch remembers the tragedy, while rumors of a Daesh defeat and a possible return of families to their homes spread. The call to rebuild the Iraqi nation by rejecting vengeance, the use of religion as a weapon against others; to combat terrorism by stopping the authors, but also those who bank-roll and preach violence. A new social pact for Iraq of coexistence among different races and religions.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) - We Christians have been called to follow the footsteps of Lord Jesus Christ in being people of peace and pursuers of love and the goodwill for all humanity. Our ancestors watered this blessed land with their blood; they were martyrs and witnesses of Christian faith. They planted monasteries together with the grains of wheat and churches with the palm trees as well as schools, hospitals etc. Therefore, we, as their descendants, have to protect what we inherited over thousands of years including land, history, language, values and spirituality. It is our mission to entrust that the light of God will ultimately disperse the darkness and His peace will prevail.
This 2nd anniversary of Mosul tragedy (10 to 17 June 2014) and Nineveh Plain catastrophe (6 / 7 August 2014) brings back to the mind, the letter Noon ن in Arabic, (a symbol that has been used by persecutors to mark the houses of Christians in Mosul and other locations, referring to their religious identity). In a meditation on this Noon that means fish – “Ichthus in Greek” (an acronym stands for faith in Jesus Christ, has been used by the Christians in the 1st Century to recognize each other in catacombs of Rome), we realize that this “strong” return of Noon after two thousand years cannot be a coincidence but rather as one of the signs of times that deserves our attention.
On this painful anniversary, the terrorism has not been defeated yet; the conflicts are not over; violations of human rights are still growing at different levels; the efforts for national reconciliation came to a halt; and the promises of eradicating corruption, reforming, establishing a civil government, and fighting against unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and diseases, did not go beyond being promises only. In spite of all that, Iraqis (of different backgrounds) are still hoping for a better future, especially after the latest victories that have been achieved in retreating ISIS. It is worth mentioning here, the importance and urgency of speeding up the process of liberating Mosul and Nineveh plain with enough protection provided to the people of this region to go back and settle at their homes. As we believe that this is doable, we would like to propose some practical ideas for post-ISIS situation:
1. Inviting Iraqis to deal wisely and reasonably with this critical turning point of Iraq’s history away from revenge. Also, to have a factual review of this disturbing reality and unite firmly to avoid more destruction and bloodshed. Unity brings salvation.
2. Standing against all those who attempt to "kidnap" our religion and homeland, using them for their own agenda and claiming the custody of both. They are killing civilians and destroying infrastructure in contradiction of religious values and coexistence. Hence, we call on the political and religious authorities to forsake and denial the legitimacy of all those who are committing such crimes.
3. Appealing to whoever is supporting such organizations and supplying them with money and weapons to stop committing these “mortal” sins, because terrorist is not the individual who executes the “crime” only, but is indeed the person who preach, plan and fund such destructive ideology. We are facing a serious “brain pollution”, which is threatening the intellectual, religious and ethnic balance that have been in this region for centuries.
4. Submitting to frustration and despair is forbidden. Even though, we admit that we are all sharing the pain and suffering in these circumstances, but that should not lead us to give up and lose hope.
5. To defeat fanatical ideology, we must replace it with an alternative open-minded one. So, we need to campaign in order to dismantle such damaging ideology by building a new culture with a clear vision based on the values of mutual acceptance, respect the humanity of human being and approval of commonly shared issues such as peace, stability, justice and equality. It is important also to start “renovating” human values before we commence restructuring the country infrastructure. It is a fact that the bankruptcy of the state does not mean empty saves, but the loss of skilled and competent people and those who are faithful to their homeland.
6. Setting up a civilian political system as a new social contract (constitution) that addresses the causes of the crisis away from the perspectives of sectarian, national, religious, and political parties. A document that respects the representation and participation concerns of everyone. This way, Iraqis will illuminate as one big beautifully diversified family.
Because of the current situation in the country, some Christian families request our help in facilitating their migration, and supporting their hunt in seeking asylum abroad to secure their future. Frankly, we understand their worries and share their concerns about the future due to religious extremism; forced displacement; demographic change; seizure of Christian homes and properties; and legal unfairness in making decisions as well as ignorance of their presence. Therefore, we advise our people not be afraid and keep their faith up, for the God in whom they trust and left their homes empty-handed, will bring them back to their land safe and sound and He will put an end to this misery.
As a Church, we express our deep pain and grief for the victims of all terrorist attacks, and we strongly condemn the horrific incidents, in which innocent people were killed, wounded, lost or forced to leave according to the “planned” displacement. To those and all the affected parties we renew our solidarity and pray. Prayers and unity are our weapons to face injustice; we are not armed (because we believe that protecting the nation is the duty of the government). Instead, we carry our CROSS-that invites us to a real faith, expressed by prayer; love and compassion service; patience; and commitment that enables us to contribute to attaining tolerance and peace. Let's put our hope in God and rely on Him in upholding our mission no matter what the sacrifices are.
Louis Raphael Sako
Patriarch of Babylon for Chaldeans