09/18/2013, 00.00
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Patriarch Sako to Christian politicians : Be united for the good of the community and the country

by Mar Louis Raphael I Sako
His Beatitude Mar Raphael Luis Sako , patriarch of Baghdad , sends some guidelines to the politicians involved in the elections in Kurdistan , scheduled for September 21 . The prelate sees defense of the rights of Christians and of the unity of the Iraqi people as the main requirements for stability. He also invites the rich of the community to invest in the country to create jobs and to prevent the exodus of Christians.

Baghdad ( AsiaNews) - "Christians should unite their efforts to preserve national cohesion and protect the right to religious freedom as a fundamental component of the Iraqi society", underlines his Beatitude Mar Rapahel Luis Sako, Chaldean Patriarch, in the run up to elections for the renewal of the Kurdistan parliament , scheduled for September 21 . In his letter to Christian leaders, the bishop provides guidance on how to improve the country's situation, a victim of sectarian and ethnic hatred that has resulted in more than 5 thousand dead since the beginning of the year. For the patriarch Christians feel in danger. They sell their homes and migrate abroad. "This - he says - is a great loss not only for the now halved Christian community, but for the whole country."

According to analysts, these will be the most important elections in the history of the region, which in January began the direct export of crude oil to world markets via Turkey, openly defying the central government, which claims "full control" of the oil in Iraq. The economic successes, however, have not stopped the disintegration of society. The split between the two main parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party ( KDP ), led by President Massoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan ( PUK) , the party founded by Jalal Talabani , the current head of state, could encourage Islamist parties so far in opposition, such as the Islamic Union and Islamic Group , with serious risks for the Christian minority repeatedly target of the Islamists , with bombings and targeted killings.

Here is the text of the letter sent by Patriarch Sako to Christian politicians.

I approach you with love and respect, in view of the parliamentary elections in Kurdistan, motivated by my concerns for the fate of Christians in the region and not out of a desire to intervene in politics. I had wanted to arrange a meeting for Christian politicians. However this proved impossible to organize given the many responsibilities I must attend to in the Church and the lack of a coordinating committee in the patriarchal curia.  Therefore, I am writing this letter to suggest some ideas to unite the efforts of Christians , inviting them to maintain national cohesion on the one hand and on the other to carry on the defense of the rights of Christians as a value for the entire Iraqi society.

The fragility of security and national identity, clashes and instability, threaten all citizens, and Christians in particular. So far there are no signs that give them the impression of greater safety or a better future. They have sold their houses, land inherited from their fathers and emigrated to find a better place for their children. This is a great challenge , but also a loss for those leaving and all of Iraq. According to the census of 1987, there were 1,264,000 Christians, there are now less than half. If about 600 thousand have fled , those who have decided to remain need help, encouragement , but this should be done in a practical way, methodically, with a specialized committee who can study and analyze the problem and suggest new solutions.

Can we improve the situation of our cities and our villages  build houses, roads and create jobs so that Christians do not migrate ? Why not encourage the wealthy members of the community to invest in their own areas?

In that way we can introduce respect for religious freedom to Kurdistan and its government and give Christians the same rights as Muslims?

How can we participate actively in politics to serve the common good and not personal interests?

Is it possible to combine all the Christian parties under a single name, such as "National Union of Iraqi Christians" ?

Today we need unity, solidarity and fraternity. Remaining united we could launch a national campaign, which could have as its slogan: "Peace and peaceful coexistence, respect for all religions and confessions, to spread a spirit of freedom and true democracy".

Why not constitute a "Christian political council" to be in charge of the affairs of the Christians and address the problems of the community.

 We need to encourage the Christians of the Diaspora to join in Iraqi embassies and to have their own passport in order to maintain their right to vote, which is useful at election time.

Christians must be encouraged to join into other parties, to run in other lists , not only in Christian ones , especially during the 2014 elections in order to increase the parliamentary members of our community .


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