07/15/2022, 11.43
IRAQ
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Ur launches centre for interreligious dialogue, open to all faiths

The project in the wake of Pope Francis' visit and includes buildings for prayer, a hall and a meeting centre. A reference point for Christians, Muslims (Sunni and Shia), Jews and Sabeans. A way to restart, and rebuild, after the violence and devastation of war and jihadist movements.  

Baghdad (AsiaNews) - The government of the governorate of Dhi Qar, in southern Iraq, has begun construction work on a centre for interreligious dialogue, which will include places of worship for the Islamic, Christian, Jewish and Sabeic faiths.  

It will also include a hall and a centre for interreligious dialogue, which will be built near the ancient city of Ur, one of the most important archaeological sites in the country and linked to the figure of Abraham, the father of the three great monotheistic religions. 

Ur and Najaf represented a key stage of Pope Francis' apostolic journey to Iraq in March 2021. According to various observers and Islamic-Christian leaders, the foundations were laid, for an Iraq founded on coexistence, pluralism, peace and a multicultural vision, capable of overcoming jihadist fundamentalism in the meeting with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and in the interreligious prayer in Ur,.  

The London-based Pan-Arab daily Al-Araby Al-Jadeed (The New Arab), reports the centre in Ur will will cover an area of over 10,000 square metres and is part of a programme to revive and revive the ancientcity of Ur, as part of a broader plan promoted by the government following the pontiff's visit to the Arab country. 

In July last year, the general secretariat of the Iraqi Council of Ministers announced the approval of a centre for interreligious dialogue. In recent days, the deputy governor of Dhi Qar Ghassan Al-Khafaji, who is in charge of planning, confirmed the local administration's intention to grant a licence for the construction of the first church, which will be flanked by urban planning and infrastructure works such as water, sewage and roads. 

Al-Khafaji emphasises that “work is still in progress," to develop a new tourist area in Ur, next to the ancient city, following Unesco parameters. And he has chosen four of them, the first of which will include a complex for interreligious dialogue, including a church site, a mosque and a hall connecting the two areas, to be the centre of the tourist city'. Christian sources hope that these initiatives will strengthen cohesion between believers of different religions, united under the common Iraqi flag. 

Scholars and experts define this project as a way to rebuild after the devastation to the heritage caused by war and sectarian violence, starting precisely from places of worship. For researcher Ahmed Abdel-Hussein, the project that is about to be born in Ur can be "a place where unity begins", against the divisions and violence of the past, archiving "extremism and fanaticism". 

Abdul-Hussein adds that Churches and mosques were targeted and demolished by extremist groups "that embraced radical ideologies". This is why, he concludes, 'building a complex that is inclusive of religions will be an important response' against all kinds of extremism and fanaticism, reinforcing the value of unity. 

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