Arab Spring Nations Still Lack Freedom and Democracy, Says Iraqi Christian Leader

By MidEast Christian News
Iraqi Christians attend a mass on Christmas at St. Joseph Chaldean church in Baghdad December 25, 2012.
Countries involved in the Arab Spring have not changed, according to Iraq’s Chaldean Catholic Church Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako I.

“Where are democracy and freedom?” Sako asked. “Change does not come suddenly or by force.”

The patriarch stressed that it was unfortunate to lose the citizenship program in which all citizens are involved in the formation of their nations. This phenomenon began in the beginning of the last century and resulted in the growth of political Islam.

The remarks were delivered in Sako’s speech on Friday at the International Ecumenical Conference. The conference is organized by the Middle East Council of Churches in cooperation with the World Council of Churches.

“We suffered several wars in Iraq such as the war with Iran, the occupation of Kuwait and the fall of the regime. Everyone suffered, but the Christian victims numbered more than a thousand and about 60 churches were attacked. At the same time, there are hundreds of Sunnis and Shiites who have been targeted,” Sako added.

The patriarch said that religious extremism leads citizens to disregard others, whether they be Muslims, non-Muslims or of other beliefs.

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“Iraqi Muslims, in my belief, are more open than other Muslims. Lebanon is an exception, but even here political conflict and many politicized bombings occur,” he added.

Sako suggested that churches should work as a team rather than in isolation. Churches should form a team of specialists to help secularists analyze the situation and provide various suggestions and solutions.

“We need a very strong media and information office that can facilitate all of these activities,” the patriarch added. “We have a responsibility towards our fellow Muslims; we love them as God, the Father of all, loves them.”

Patriarch Sako called for a new understanding of the Christian teachings and explained that “our preaching and speeches are still archaic and delivered in an incomprehensible language to this day, not only for Christians but to anyone else.”

Archbishop Avak Asaduryan, representative of the Armenian Orthodox community in Iraq, delivered a speech saying: “We came as citizens and are always ready to carry out the duties citizenship to our country, our land, our history and our common heritage.”

“In the modern nation state, it is not acceptable to use of the term ‘minority’ to describe citizens with national, religious or sectarian characteristics. This violates the principle of equal citizenship,” Archbishop Asaduryan added.