Iraq’s Christians are above all “Iraqis” suffering from the same evils as their fellow Muslim citizens: we must counter the predominant and incorrect association of Christian- International troops; fight “in a concrete way and not just in words” for a united Iraq so that all of its components may live in harmony and respect: these are the central themes of a reflection given by Fr. Saad Hanna Sirop.
The priest intervenes once more on the question of the persecution of Christians in Iraq, an argument which the authors of the “Nineveh Plain project” are trying to resolve by means of a dangerous self ghettoization in the North of country.
The proposed Assyrian enclave was unanimously rejected by the national Chaldean Church. In a recent declaration entrusted to the procurator general for the Chaldean Catholic Church to the Holy See msgr. Philip Najim, the Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, Mar Emmanuel III Delly, said:
“A division of Iraq along confessional or ethnic lines makes no sense. Christians are everywhere, just as the Sunni and Shiite. Why divide our country?”
Msgr Shlemon Warduni, auxilliary bishop of the capital agrees, distancing himself from the project: “Christianity is like salt, like light, it is everywhere, it cannot be closet in on itself. We must win back respect for religious freedom for Christians, so it is illogical to close ourselves into a cage. By doing so we will only become an easy target. We have many monuments, historic places of worship, how can we abandon then to move to a new place?”
Firstly I would like to point out that Christians in Iraq have long lived with their Muslim brothers and they have earned their respect; the Islamic community, in the course of time, has recognised that Christians are honest people, that they are faithful and practise their beliefs.
However following the US intervention in 2003 the image of the Christian changed because of the religious nature of the political discourse that accompanied it, which even at times described the military action as a crusade against Muslims.
All of this gravely influenced the coexistence between Muslims and Christians, provoking distrust between the two communities.
I believe that it is incorrect to speak of a systematic persecution carried out by Muslims, because they too are being threatened, killed and forced to migrate. It is necessary to repeat this: perhaps the Christians throughout Iraq are subjected to a greater degree of persecution!
Christians do not want to loose the brotherhood and respect that was painstakingly built over the course of history with their Muslim brothers; they have always sought to build authentic dialogue with them.
The current situation in Iraq is desperate for the entire population:
hundreds of Christian and Muslim families leave their homes to escape terrorism and partisan militias;
tens of people loose their lives each day because of religious hatred ethnic discrimination that was created in the wake of the war;
Mosques and Churches are targeted and destroyed each week and not one Iraqi politician raises his voice in objection or concretely intervenes;
The Baghdad government is week and divided along ethnic-confessional lines, so it is incapable of resolving the situation, which instead is rapidly degenerating; there is more violence, more corruption, more division, more death and more destruction;
The reconciliation launched by the government has provoked deep divisions and has destabilised vast areas of the nation, attacks have increased in the North and South a like:
Political initiatives are partisan and the authorities look after party interests without looking at the global common good, to the detriment of human rights.
Iraq is part of human heritage: it is the cradle of ancient culture and civilizations (Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians ...). Iraq gave birth to writing, to love of the sciences, religion, spirituality, law and some of the Books of the Bible.
Iraq does not only belong to Iraqis, but to everyone. That is why I maintain that we are all responsible for the restoration of the true image of Iraq. Words and lengthy speeches of condemnation are not enough, international action is needed.
* P. Saad Hanna Sirop, 35, was kidnapped August 15th 2006. For 27 days he was held hostage, tortured and beaten. Benedict XVI appealed for his release. The young priest, ordained in Rome in 2001, was head of the Theological faculty of Babel College, the Christian University of Religious studies in Baghdad. Because of his abduction and the rising wave of insecurity in Baghdad, Babel College was transferred to Erbil in Kurdistan. Fr. Saad Sirop is currently furthering his studies in Rome
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