05/20/2021, 18.00
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Patriarch Sako: a civil state against the political use of religion

The Chaldean primate spoke at a conference organised by University of Kurdistan Hewlêr in Erbil, in the presence of the top leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan. True democracy is fundamental “for the progress and unity of peoples”. A secular state embraces “all religions, cultures, groups and languages”.


Erbil (AsiaNews) – Mixing religion and politics is “a distortion” because the two are “different”. Democracy “is not an ornament,” but guarantees “freedom, human rights, and dignity, a way to spread the culture of life and make the economy prosper,” said Card Louis Raphael Sako.

The Chaldean patriarch spoke yesterday at a conference titled “The Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Unity and Constitution” organised by the University of Kurdistan Hewlêr in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan.

The President of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, the region’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, as well as ministers and Members of the regional parliament were present at the event.

“For the progress and unity of peoples,” the Chaldean primate noted, “it is necessary to establish a true democracy, with a civil constitution that is protected by competent government institutions, and which respects the freedom of individuals and groups”.

Card Sako’s address comes more than two months after Pope Francis‘s historic visit to Iraq,  ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections. Scheduled initially for June, they are now set to be held on 10 October, unless there is any further delay.

Voters will be able to choose the 328 members of Iraq’s Council of Representatives, who will in turn be called upon to choose the new President of the Republic, Prime Minister, and government.

In his speech, the Chaldean primate urged his fellow Iraqis to accept the separation of religion and state in any new constitution, for Kurdistan and Iraq, a “civic” charter that recognises political pluralism and ethnic and religious diversity.

For Card Sako, "A civil constitution must be in harmony with the new reality, a constitution that is based on universally recognised principles identified by international law and human rights, such as recognition of pluralism, gender and diversity.”

He warns that “The inclusion of religion in politics is a distortion of it and its sublime values.” By contrast, a “civil state is the system of managing public affairs, embracing all religions, cultures, groups and languages and administering their public affairs fairly, and it does not interfere with the religious choices of its citizens."

The Chaldean patriarch used the occasion to thank the leaders of the Kurdistan Region for welcoming hundreds of thousands of Christian and Muslim refugees who fled Mosul and the Nineveh Plain following the rise of Islamic State (IS) in the summer of 2014.

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