In Iraq we are witnessing " grass roots revolt against terrorism, against violence", accompanied by a renewed commitment to the "defense of life, of peace, of joy"; in this way "it is possible to defeat those who seek death, destruction, emigration”, the Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis Sako tells AsiaNews, describing the festive atmosphere these days in the country, despite episodes of violence.
Among the many events that have marked these days of celebration, the
Chaldean primate cites three examples: Christmas trees scattered around
different neighborhoods in Baghdad; the visit of a group of young
Najafdi Shiite Muslims who attended a mass in the capital; the
celebrations for the new year in Basra and the invitation of local
authorities to Christians, "to return to their homes."
"New Year's Eve – says Mar Sako - I went out to go to a square in the
Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad. We celebrated with a lot of people,
nearly a million people took to the streets. " "We talked with them, we
exchanged greetings; these are small things - but are important to
reject the Daesh ideology of terror "[Arabic acronym of the Islamic
state] who still target the capital with attacks.
The "change" is visible, continues the Chaldean Patriarch,
"especially in Baghdad, dotted with Christmas trees. And then the many
letters of greeting from religious, political authorities, but also of
Muslim civil activists and many ordinary people. "
"I think 2017 - he
said - will be another year, maybe not total peace, but certainly
greater cohesion, unity. This is my prayer, but it is also the common
feeling of the majority of citizens".
Basra’s political, religious and institutional authorities have
launched an appeal to Christians, asking the many who have emigrated to
return to their homes. In the southern Iraqi city New Year's Eve was
also celebrated for the first time, demonstrating a greater climate
"cohesion" among the different souls that make up the local situation
and the whole country.
The police forces in Basra kept watch so that the
celebrations and the festivities were held in complete safety; the
County Council has also committed itself to the maintenance and
renovation of churches.
"The governor and the president of the Municipal Council - Mar Sako
continues - came to visit me in these days of celebration. A local
Christian politician circulated a letter for the New Year against the
war. We Christians have a lot to do for the local community; I asked the
local authorities to show their closeness to the Christian communities,
and these appeals and these initiatives [at Christmas] is a first
The most significant event of these days, believes Mar Sako,
is the visit of a group of young Muslims, boys and girls, originating
in Najaf, Shiite Muslims, who attended a mass in the church of St.
George. Afterwards, the group had lunch with the patriarch of the
Chaldean Church and other members of the executive exchanging stories
and personal and community experiences.
"They took part in the church
service - recalls the primate Chaldean - and then we posed for
photographs with a flag of Iraq and banners for peace. They young people
were impressed by the songs and prayers. "
"I explained to them - continues Mar Sako - our faith, in the one
God, the Trinity concept. I explained the basics of our faith, the
common descent from Abraham, the figure of Jesus. I invited them to
combat ignorance of Christianity, we are not infidels. Reporters of two
television channels also came, and I appealed to them to help spread
awareness of our culture, to explain it to their audience, because there
are many more things that unite us than divide us".
"An even more significant - continues the Chaldean Patriarch - is
that this visit of young Muslim Shiite of Najaf came on their own
initiative. They have seen a few dedicated services to our community in
the media, and they wanted to meet us, creating a personal and direct
relationship with us that I hope will continue in the future. Here, from
this we can also see the importance of newspapers and TV to provide
opportunities for interaction and discussion. For this reason, this
year, I asked the priests and bishops to think of messages and Christmas
homilies that they could apply to everyone. "
To the young people of Najaf, at the end of the Mass, they were
joined by a group of young Muslims in Baghdad, which "wanted to bring
flowers" and celebrate with us, "the beginning of the New Year." It is
time that Muslims "take action and show the positive side of their
faith" and that politicians operate "to remove the obstacles and think
about the common good."
"From young people to government leaders -
concluded Mar Sako - you can strive for dialogue, unity and the