12/11/2015, 00.00
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Patriarch of Baghdad: Defeat of Islamic State requires ground troops, religious freedom and secularism

by Louis Raphael I Sako*
Mar Sako recently participated in a conference dedicated to the situation of Christians in Iraq and Syria, which "is deteriorating." The Patriarch calls for a freeze on jihadist finances and clear separation between state and religion. Christians are rooted in their homeland and respect Muslims.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The only way that the Islamic State can be defeated is through ground troops, a freeze on their financial sources and those of other terrorist groups; a united front against "all forms of extremism, of hatred, of violence" and common commitment to the principle of religious freedom and full citizenship of all the souls of the country, including the Christian minority.

These are some of the concrete proposals put forward by Mar Louis Raphael I Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, to counter violence in the Middle East and especially Iraq, the theater of the advance of jihadist movements. To build a "better future", he says, there is a need to "separate religion from the state" and separate institutions "from a religion or a cult."

Mar Sako participated this week in a meeting in Rome dedicated to the current situation in Iraq and Syria and the Christian response to persecution. The initiative is promoted by GeorgeTown University (USA), the University of Notre Dame in Indiana (USA), the Community of Sant'Egidio and the Knights of Columbus. Here, below, the full text of Patriarch Sako’s intervention, sent to AsiaNews:


The conference is organized by GeorgeTown university (USA), the university of Notre Dame in Indiana(USA), St Igidio community and Nights Columbus ,

The them is the situation of Christians in Iraq and Syria.Participants are many countries, Pagtriarch Sako and Yonan attended the conference and gave a speech.

Rome 10-12 December 2015

Patriarch Louis Raphel Sako



The situation of Christians in several countries of the Middle East is "degrading”. Persecuting Christians has become a phenomenon today for several reasons:


1. The culture that Christianity is a religion of love, forgiveness and peace, which is against the current: culture  of taking revenge.

2. The secularization became a religion in the west  and the vacuum of religious values in the western society. 

3. The corruption of several regimes in the Middle East and the lack of real reforms.

4. The mistakes of western policy in the Middle East in changing regimes for worst. Dictatorship is a culture in M.E. What it needs is a fair dictator!   

5.   The lack of formation in democracy and freedom and human rights. 

6. The instability and the lack of security.

7. The raise of Islam with the goal to establish an Islamic state according to Islamic law. 

Many Muslims think that Christianity has failed and they have the mission to Islamize the world because Islam is the true religion. 

Today’s situation of Christians in M.E.

Unfortunately, Religious liberty is under attack in several countries of the M.E... Daesh Isis and extremists attack Christians, Yazidis and Sabeans because of their belief. They destroy anything that does not fit into their vision of Islam. Leaders of Islamic state have established three rules of trade with no Muslims: forcing people to convert to Islam, to pay a tribute (Jizyah), or to leave their house, or to be beheaded.

In one night 120.000 Christians left their homes with their clothes and now they are living in camps since one and half year, Is not a crime against humanity?


Constitutions based on religious or sectarian motivations are also incompatible with the values of human rights. Political Islam tries to impose an Islamic systematic law (al shari’a) which does not allow legally the non-Muslims to have a real participation in the political life and to have equal constitutional rights as Muslims in the administration. Today everything in Iraq has been sectarian!  


The recent low approved by the   Iraqi parliament   in October 27, 2015 is a coercion against Christian, Yazidi and Sabean children below the age of 18, forced to convert to Islam, when one of the parents proclaims to be Muslim (Art. 26 / II). This is contrary to the values of the citizens and damages the national unity and its religious pluralism and the principle of coexistence. 

The law contradicts the Koran, which declares in many verses "there can be no compulsion on the subject of religion." In addition, many provisions of the Iraqi Constitution including Article 3, which states that "Iraq is a multi-ethnic country" with different religions and cults. Yet, art. 37 / II that "the State shall guarantee the protection of the individual from political and religious coercion." Moreover, art. 42 that "everyone has freedom of thought, conscience and religion. And alsos it contradicts the international records on human rights “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of

Militias are also threatening Christians in Baghdad , kidnapping them  for getting money  and forcing them to leave their houses  in order to occupy them.

It is regrettable that in such a context, Non-Muslims have little hope of a better situation in the region. The violations push Christians and other minorities to emigrate and consequently to uproot themselves from their motherland, where there were identified to! Before the collapse of Sadam’s regime, the number of Christians was about 1,400,000 persons and today they are around 500,000!




I would like to present some concrete proposals. They may serve as a roadmap to a better future in the region.


Daesh and fundamentalism are a cancer in Islamic body  but  also  pose a real threat to all; therefore, we all together must destroy it military with troupes on the ground  and defeat it ideologically in drying up the sources of funding, weaponry and feeding jihadists. Sectarianism and all other forms of extremism of hatred and violence must be condemned and eliminated.


The government has the duty to guarantee a real understanding of the relationship between citizens of the same nation and individual freedom without fears. Reforms in the political sphere should establish a civilian system based on the principle of citizenship and equality. 


The government should criminalize and punish all of the activities related to contempt of religion and its holy symbols, and forms of discrimination, spreading hatred and division.


Islamic religious authorities should take their full responsibility in dismantling the takfiri ideology, by providing moderate programs of religious teaching, purifying them from hellish ideas, and respecting differences and strengthening the bonds of goodwill among citizens, and spreading a culture of harmonic social coexistence.  May be we need a universal ethics against Xenophobia and fundamentalism.


The international community through United Nations should issue decrees against those who are committing such injustice against religious minorities, those who are financing and supporting this terrorist ideology. They must be brought to the international tribunal.


Freedom of religion does not mean that the state should be secular but a state with an official religion that would assure the basic rights, including the individual right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief without discrimination. Christians and other minorities should leavethe protected minority status to become full citizens.


Personally, I think the only chance to build a better future for all is to separate religion from the state and to establish a civil state away from the logic of a state governed by one religion or sect. Our society is composed of multiple religions. How one can live out his doctrine of faith when his religion is a second category. The importance is that one has to be a good citizen. Religion is a personal matter between man and God, and the belief in any religion should come out of his conviction and not of coercion.



To achieve this goal: Governments, religions and people of good will all over the world should be involved seriously to preserve and strengthen religious indivisible freedom that allows people to think, express and act upon what they freely and deeply believe. Freedom is a basic and fundamental human right for all. It is not a favor or a monopoly of a religion, or sect, or an ethnic group or of the majority. Religious freedom benefits every single person on earth, and creates good conditions for a peaceful co-existence between citizens of the same nation.

We Christians assert our attachment to our country- homeland, and we respect and love our Muslim brothers and similarly we want them to do the same thing for us.


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