Chaldean Patriarch: Christians and Muslims must lead the fight against fundamentalism

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by Joseph Mahmoud
Mar Sako calls on “our brother” Muslims, to be the “first” to reject “all forms” of discrimination and violence. He points the finger at those who use religion to gain power. He invites the faithful of Islam to be promoters of a project of inter-religious peace and harmony, starting from an “open and enlightened” revision of the sacred and historical texts.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – “We call upon our fellow Muslims to take the initiative and lead a campaign of rejecting any Sectarian discrimination”. This was the invitation launched by the Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael I Sako, speaking at a conference organized at the weekend in Baghdad by the Iraqi Center for Diversity Management (ICDM). The patriarch was appealing to more than 1.6 billion Muslims, mostly moderate, around the world, inviting them to promote a joint project to “dismantle the fundamentalist ideology” in all its forms. A proposal that, to be successful, must be supported and guided by the very same followers of Islam.

In his speech, Mar Sako speaks of the drama of the Christians of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, where about 500 thousand people have fled between June and August of last year, following the advance of the Islamic State, who founded a caliphate and imposed sharia. Christians, along with other religious minorities, “were once the majority” and have “strong ties” with the territory; they contributed – adds Mar Sako – to the construction of Iraq and development of the same Islamic culture.

These communities “are now marginalized” and “have been treated in a harsh and brutal manner”, so that today in Mosul and the Nineveh plain of “there is not a single Christian left”. For the patriarch of Baghdad the biggest threat “is not just the terrorism of the Islamic state” or other “terrorist organizations”, rather the “takfiris” ideology which considers Muslims opposed to the ideology of violence and oppression as “unbelievers”. He points the finger at “forces” who commit violence and focus on the logic of power “covered by the cloak of religion”.

In an effort to overcome one of the most difficult periods in the history of Iraq, the Middle East region and the Christians of the region, Mar Sako proposes a common project focused on three main points: Building an open and enlightened Islamic opinion by thoroughly reviewing the texts; Adopting the appropriate interpretation of the texts closing the door to those who are influencing the mentality of young people to use violence in the name of religion; Finally, the promotion of a “culture of acceptance and mutual understanding”, as “brothers and citizens” of the same nation. In this, the role “of the Muslim religious and political authorities” will be essential in overcoming “all forms of violence.”

Thanking those responsible ICDM in Baghdad for its commitment to the promotion of a “culture of peaceful co-existence” and “respect for diversity and pluralism”, Mar Sako concludes saying that “there is no other future” than that of “peace, harmony and cooperation.” A goal shared by Muslims, Christians, believers of other religions, and that must also be supported “by the media” which should provide information and content “respectful of religions” and the sensibilitie