Chaldean Patriarch to Iraqi Christians: ‘Let the Easter Flame Not Be Turned Off in Your Hearts’

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by Penny Starr
The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad, Iraq released his Easter message to the people of Iraq this week, telling them not to let the spirit of Easter be dimmed, despite the suffering they face daily from persecution and terrorism, Vatican radio reported.

“Since Christianity means to bear what we are called for in life, I urge Christians in general and the Chaldeans in particular not to allow the above mentioned ‘incidents’ to frustrate them and turn off the Easter flame in their hearts,” Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako wrote in his message.

Those “above-mentioned incidents,” include, Sako wrote, “heartbreaking attack by terrorists causing serious wounds that cannot be ignored, especially for expelling them from their homes.”

Sako urged Iraqi Christians to “work efficiently with their fellow Iraqi citizens of different faiths, such as Muslims, Yazidis, Sabian Mandaeans, etc., in confronting the challenges they face together as a nation.

“This will ultimately guide people in this country to promote diversity, multiplicity and respect differences within the framework of a completely practiced citizenship and the common rules of moral conduct,” Sako wrote.

But the spiritual message sent by the Patriarch also addressed political issues, including the successes and failures of the Iraqi government.

He said the government has “unfairly made decisions and unjust legislations” that affect Iraqi Christians. Sako wrote:

We expect the government officials and religious authorities to embrace [Christians], and do more than routine courtesy and the consideration of the majority and the minority, by releasing a concrete initiative to support their continued existence, as native people of this land; to guarantee their rights as equal citizens; and to treat them as genuine partners in ‘self-determination.’

He also noted the success of the government in its fight against radical Islamic terrorism:

In the midst of the deterioration in the Iraqi security; infrastructure; and economy during the past 14 years, the defeat of ISIS (Da’esh, those who brought death, destruction and displacement), and the subsequent triumph of all courageous armed forces in the area has made Iraqis proud and hopeful. Thus, the time has come for politicians to; unite and correct their routes; commit their energies in the right directions to build a modern civil state; integrate into the national identity; and adopt sound economic, social and educational programs.

“So that our country will find its way to a qualitative revival at all levels,” Sako wrote. “Then Iraqis will enjoy a more secured and peaceful future of justice, dignity and freedom.”

Last month, some of Iraq’s religious minorities, including the Assyrian Christians and Yazidis, joined forces to urge Baghdad and the global community to let them to establish a semi-autonomous region in northwestern Iraq.

David Lazar, chairman of the American Mesopotamian Organization, said in a statement about the development:

Finally, in 2017, after all of the genocides, ethnic cleansings, persecutions, abuse, and injustice, representatives of the Turkmens, Assyrians, Yezidis and Shabak peoples are declaring a new coalition to brings their peoples together for the defense of their lives and the assertion of their rights as specified in the constitution of the Republic of Iraq.

Sako told Iraqi Christians to “deepen their fidelity to Christianity and to their Church; strengthen their affiliation to their homeland; renew trust and consolidate ties with their fellow citizens of different backgrounds; and to keep in mind that their presence in this land is a sign and a story of a historical existence for 20 Centuries.”

Sako wrote that the Chaldean Church in Iraq has dedicated 2017 as a year of peace.