12/01/2008, 00.00
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Msgr. Sako: encouraging the exodus of Christians damages Iraq

The European Union has announced a plan to welcome over 10 thousand Iraqi refugees, exiled in Syria and Jordan. The archbishop of Kirkuk is against a mass exodus of Christians from the land of their birth and denounces a political leadership that fails to promote unity. Leaving implies “betraying the meaning of the Christian message”.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – While it is our duty to welcome refugees it is far more important to “eliminate the root cause of their forced exile” and to make it possible for them to “live in peace and harmony in the land of their birth”.  That is the message at the heart of a statement released to AsiaNews by Louis Sako, Archbishop of Kirkuk, regarding the issue of Iraqi refugees.

On November 27th the European Union announced that it will welcome up to 10 thousand Iraqi refugees, most of who live in exile in Syria and Jordan, in conditions of misery and suffering.  “Passing an indemnity of this nature – continues Msgr. Sako – is like telling Christians to flee, to leave Iraq.  Today 10 thousand, tomorrow another 10 thousand until the day arrives when the nation will be emptied of its Christian presence”.  The prelate reiterates that aid cannot be limited to “welcoming refugees”, rather “every step must be taken to favour their permanence”.

Germany says it is ready to take at least 2500 refugees and that priority will be given to those who need medical care, victims of torture and abuse, single mothers and religious minorities.  The United Nations High Commissionaire for Refugees has applauded the move as “a positive step”, after 18 months of pressure on Brussels. The Archbishop of Kirkuk does not “entirely” rule out the positive aspects of the decision, he clarifies that “there are extreme cases of people who cannot return to Iraq, such as former members of Saddam’s regime”, however not for this reason should a mass exodus be encouraged, this would only serve to worsen the situation”.  “It is right to come to the aid of those in difficulty – he continues – but it is necessary to deal with specific cases and above all to work to rebuild civil coexistence in the country”.

Msgr. Sako denounces the lack of a common vision within the Christian community and the absence of a strong political leadership: “Christians are divided among themselves – he comments – some want to stay, others prefer to leave.  The desire to flee is spurred on by the lack of a political leader capable of guiding people towards a concrete project that would convince them to stay, even in the midst of suffering and difficulties”.  A large part of the Muslim community is also against the exodus, who seek “faithfulness, openness and morality” from their Christian brothers and sisters, but also cooperation in “rebuilding the future together” because they consider Christians “an integral part of our nation”.

The Archbishop of Kirkuk concludes with an appeal for the Christian community: “To flee before difficulties – he says – means loosing the true meaning of the Christian message which invites us to mission, not to retreat.  Even in the face of persecution, we must be an example of the deepest sense of the Gospel, which asks us to be witnesses to Christ’s sacrifice. Leaving means betraying our duty to announce Christ, as many Muslims hope and expect us to do.  All of this is held within the meaning of one expression, which according to tradition Peter asked of Christ; ‘Quo vadis?’. In his answer he invited Peter to return to Rome to face martyrdom”.  (DS)


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