11/09/2015, 00.00
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Patriarch of Baghdad: Invokes International Court against law on Islamization of children

by Louis Raphael I Sako*
Mar Sako leads Church's battle against the controversial Iraqi norm on religious freedom. The patriarch appeals to President to send norm back to parliament for further discussion. A struggle for justice and equality "among all Iraqi citizens".

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - "If this law is applies, we will make our voices heard” at a global level and we will bring the lower house before the "international tribunal” says Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael I Sako, referring to a controversial norm that would seriously undermine religious freedom . Under the law, children of couples where one of the parents converts to Islam would automatically be considered Muslim. In recent months an amendment allowing children to retain the religion of their  birth up to 18 before personally deciding about their faith, he had been tabled . But at the end of October, the Iraqi Parliament rejected this proposal. Mar Sako says many Muslims and NGOs support the Church position of in the name of pluralism in Iraqi society and he urges parliamentarians to "concern themselves more with fostering good citizenship, and not meddle in religious affairs".  If the appeal to the President of the Republic and the House falls on deaf ears, the Iraqi Church leaders are ready to resort to the highest bodies of international justice. Here, below, the Mar Sako message has sent to AsiaNews:

The vote of the deputies of the Iraqis, which was held October 27, 2015, in favor of the National Charter has generated great resentment among Christians and other non-Muslim minorities. It obliges children under 18 to automatically embrace the Muslim religion, if even only one parent decides to convert to Islam (Art. 26.2).

Leaving aside the fact that a parent betrays his bond with his children, it is unacceptable that this implies that the second party is deprived of the opportunity to fulfill the promise made and keep their religious faith.

In addition, we have responded in a theological and scientific  manner to one of the MPs who had indicated his opposition to our request. He was also highly disrespectful in his treatment towards us, completely lacking in courtesy.

This norm is one of the most discriminatory, because it shows a total disregard for the values ​​of the civilization of Iraq and against those who are considered to be among the first citizens of this country.  All this is a threat to the unity of the nation, as well as social balance, religious pluralism and the principle of acceptance of the other in their diversity, with their unique situation and common life goals.

The affirmative vote by MPs to such a law is contrary to what is written in the Koran itself,  where it indicates that in more than one verse that there is no requirement to embrace a religion. This contrasts at the same time with the thought of the greatest Muslim theologians, among whom we fondly recall the great professor Mostafa Zalmi who wrote in his book: The Koran and the norm under which the child follows the religion better one parent (2à Edition, Erbil 2011). All of this also tramples over a provision of the Iraqi Constitution, as Article 3 provides that: "Iraq is a nation made up of different ethnic groups, religions and denominations "; and again, Article 37, paragraph 2: "The country guarantees the protection of the individual against any doctrinal, political or religious coercion"; Finally, Article 42: "Every individual has freedom of thought, conscience and ideology." And as we are part of the international community, this law is contrary to human rights standards and international treaties.

We thank our Muslim brothers, NGOs and human rights delegations in Iraq, for their strong support as we go forward and protest against this discriminatory law and we want to renew our opposition  to this homogeneous Charter. At the same time, we want to assert the principle that the child should keep their religious affiliation, so that he or she can freely decide their faith, according to belief,  when they come of age. After all, religion is a matter which concerns only the relationship between God and man, and should not be bound by any obligations.

Parliamentarians would do well to worry about an individual become a good citizen, and not meddle in his or her religious faith. This is why we appeal to the President of the Republic of Iraq Fuad Masoum, that he return the bill to the Assembly of Deputies to be modified and at the same time, we urge Members to assume their responsibilities and really create conditions of justice and equality among all Iraqi citizens. And again, we want to state emphatically that, in case of application of this law, we will make our voice heard at the international level and we will ensure that the Assembly of Deputies must respond about this before the international tribunal.

* Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and president of the Episcopal Conference of Iraq

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