Archbishop and imam of Kirkuk celebrate Iftar with 30 orphans

iraq_-_cena_iftar_kirkuk_600_x_4501.jpgby Joseph Mahmoud
The bishop and the Islamic religious leader attended the dinner organized by the Center for Human Rights in the city. Archbishop Sako gives an envelope with money to Muslim children, “an expression of support from fellow Christians.” During Ramadan, many gestures of solidarity between Christians and Muslims. But still more attacks on churches and violence in the country.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – Yesterday evening, Mgr. Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, participated in the Iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast that Muslims observe daily during Ramadan. About thirty children (pictured) around the table were gathered, accompanied by family members. The dinner was organized by the Center for Human Rights in the city and was attended by Sheikh Ahmed Mohammed Amin, the imam of the local mosque. The meeting last night is a sign of detente in the Muslim holy month, this year marked by deadly bombings and attacks on churches in different parts of the country.

At the end of the evening Mgr. Sako stressed that “this feast is the strongest expression of the fast”, because it invites Christians and Muslims to “help our brothers and sisters in need, feel closer to the poor, the orphan, the widow.” The dinner took on a major symbolic meaning also – and especially – thanks to the participation of Sheikh Ahmed, who spoke of the “moral values of our people and the fundamentals of their respective religions,” Islam and Christianity. At the end of the evening the Archbishop of Kirkuk (northern Iraq) presented an envelope containing a sum of money to be distributed to children as “an expression of support of their fellow Christians.” The gesture was appreciated by the imam, who thanked the bishop for his presence and for “the efforts of our brothers [Christians] who are always the first to help.”

On the occasion of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and prayer for Islam, the diocese of Kirkuk organized a series of common initiatives between Christians and Muslims. In early August, a delegation led by the archbishop visited the district healthcare centre and donated 300 kg of medicines to be distributed to hospitals. Previously, Christian and Muslim women came together for an interfaith conference on violence, after which they have developed joint initiatives.

However, in recent weeks, there were also targeted attacks against churches, one attack caused a real bloodbath on August 2, when a bomb exploded in front of the Syrian Catholic Church, wounding 15 people and causing serious damage to the building Christian. Mid-month, terrorists struck the Syrian Orthodox church of St. Ephrem, also in Kirkuk, and a few hundred meters from the Chaldean cathedral.

But the attacks also affect the Muslim majority and ordinary citizens, in an endless trail of blood. On 15 August, a wave of attacks in ten cities caused 50 deaths and 160 wounded. The cities of Kut, Tikrit, the capital Baghdad, the holy city of Najaf, Karbala and Ramadi were affected by the violence.