Chaldean patriarch: the time has come for Iraq to have a Christian party

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There are prominent Christians in politics, law, and culture. For card Sako, it is essential to avoid dispersing strength and skills, dividing the community into parties and factions. Emigration abroad and marginalisation at home are the first challenges to face. Citizenship and the constitution are the bases for living together.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Chaldean Patriarch Card Louis Raphael Sako said that the time has come for Christians to set up their own party in order to be stronger and have greater representation.

“Perhaps it is now necessary, before it is too late, to think and plan a unified Christian strategy,” writes the prelate in a note sent to AsiaNews for wider circulation. From this, “a document will be produced, to which everyone will adhere under a name such as ‘The Christian Parties Group’, or the Christian Alliance”.

For the cardinal, “More than one observer believes that there is an excellent opportunity for Christians to think of forming a single political alliance that includes all parties, intellectual elites, specialties and abilities, especially young people.”

Indeed, the Iraqi Christian community has experts in law, politics, sociology, economics and the media. This is why it is important to avoid dispersing such human resources among various parties and factions, each of which “claims supremacy”.

The times has come for Christian elites to “think carefully about reviewing themselves and take responsibility for their reunification”, especially amid great challenges and difficulties, like emigration, marginalisation in employment, weak political representation and ineffective quota system, dispersion among Assyrian, Syriac and Chaldean parties, changing demographics in traditionally Christian regions, and constitutional change.

After the 2003 US invasion, years of confessional violence, and the military rise and fall of the still ideologically present Islamic State group, Iraq finds itself facing new issues.

The Christmas holidays have come at a critical moment for the country following the emergence after 1st October of a powerful, anti-government grassroots movement.

Despite harsh police repression, the largely non-sectarian protests have forced Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to resign, but the aim of protesters is to see the entire political class removed.

The authorities began cracking down in late November, after the Iranian consulate in Najaf was attacked twice. Since the start of the unrest, more than 450 people have been killed and some 20,000 injured.

Against this background, Card Sako believes that only an alliance between Christian parties and movements can allow Christians to play a greater role in decision-making in the central government, in Baghdad, and in the autonomous region of Kurdistan.

Inevitably this means that the word Christian must be included in the party’s name. In fact, “it is worth leaving our differences,” whilst everyone can “follow his own nationality, traditions and Church: Chaldean, Syriac, Assyrian, and Armenian”. To achieve this goal, the prelate lays out a plan in several points for the near future.

Firstly, he proposes the creation of a “committee of professionals in law and politics [. . .] to establish the rights of Christians in the constitution”, covering personal status (marriage, alimony, child custody, inheritance), and fix “Christmas and Easter as holidays for all Iraqis, similar to tens of Muslim holidays”.

Such a plan should also involves education, especially the “curricula to consolidate national unity and properly incorporate our (Christian) heritage into it as part of the Iraqi national heritage”, as well as demography, most notably the changing “demographics of our regions” and the problem of land seizure, focusing “on the towns of the Nineveh Plain” where “The future of Iraqi Christians” will be determined.

To this end, steps should be taken to reduce “migration by finding money” to create “job opportunities for the unemployed”, encourage “expatriates to invest and contribute to projects,” and develop “independent media and institutions at home and abroad.”

Card Sako suggests the setting up of a team to follow “the affairs of Christians in the state departments” as well action to boost “relations with our Arab citizens, Kurds, Turkmen, Yazidis, and Sabean-Mandaean” on the basis of “common constitutional concepts of the state and citizenship”.

Lastly, “on our part as a Church, we are ready to support the achievement of such a comprehensive meeting if there are a sincere will and serious or sober people willing to hold it.”