by Louis Raphael Sako*
Card Sako sends his good wishes for the New Year with peace in mind. The year 2020 was the year of the coronavirus pandemic, suffering and wars. The year 2021 is tasked with fostering a “culture of non-violence”. The Pope’s visit to Iraq is an opportunity for the country to be a “new nation”.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The mission of religions is to “spread and consolidate a culture of peace, fellowship, and love,” writes Card Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean Primate, in a message posted on the Patriarchate’s website for World Day of Peace, on 1 January.
At the end of a year marked by the coronavirus pandemic and old and new conflicts, it is hoped that in 2021 a “culture of non-violence” will really be in place and that Pope Francis’ apostolic journey will be an opportunity for Iraq to “be a new nation”. Patriarch Sako’s message follows:
It is sad that our country and the whole world are witnessing a frantic – and sometimes armed – race for power and money, not for people and services. No true peace can exist unless we abandon our murderous selfishness and establish true fellowship among us.
Peace is a fundamental goal for every human being; without it, there is no stable life or progress. In order to achieve peace, people must be educated – intellectually, religiously and socially – in the values of fellowship, tolerance, non-violence and solidarity. They must develop awareness of the importance of these principles for a harmonious life.
The mission of religions is to spread and consolidate a culture of peace, fellowship and love. True believers – not those who wear the cloak of religion to cover their interests and actions – live peace within themselves and reflect it in their environment and in the people with whom they come into contact. This form of spirituality fills the heart with comfort and joy: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Spiritual leaders must:
– purify religious thinking from ordinary and old errors and ideas; renew religious discourse and adapt it to the demands of the present, so that it adapts to people’s lives and dignity, and attains what is good for them, without affecting their faith;
– promote a shared faith, humanity and patriotism, and spread a spirit of tolerance and religious and intellectual pluralism.
The state must fully assume its responsibilities in protecting all its members in accordance with the notion of citizenship, law and institutions, while respecting rights and dignity.
Together, we must be conscious and committed to building peace, ending wars and protecting people’s rights. This must be done through education in the family (the home as school), schools, churches, mosques and the media.
In his message for the 54th World Day of Peace, on 1 January 2021, Pope Francis says: “At the dawn of a new year, I extend cordial greetings to heads of state and government, leaders of international organisations, spiritual leaders and followers of the different religions, and to men and women of good will. To all I offer my best wishes that the coming year will enable humanity to advance on the path of fraternity, justice and peace between individuals, communities, peoples and nations.”
As the pontiff has indicated, 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, especially because of the repercussions of the pandemic and conflicts, often over trivial issues. Let us hope, therefore, that the new year will bring less stress and suffering, that conditions will be better for everyone, hopeful that, to our great happiness, we shall soon be able to return to an atmosphere of normality.
On this day I ask you to pray that peace may reach the hearts of people in Iraq, the Middle East and the world, so that the walls of hatred and violence may fall forever. I also ask you to pray for the success of Pope Francis’ visit to our country, so that Iraq may find strength in it in order to be a new nation, different from the one it was before.
* Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Iraq