Iraq: church leaders call for a role in rebuilding peace

Representatives of churches in Iraq confirmed their commitment to work together with all Iraqi citizens for reconciliation and rebuilding peace in the country.

“The solution to current conditions lies not in emptying Iraq of its human resources,” said the participants at a 10-11 February meeting in Dar Sayedat Al Jabal, Fatka, Lebanon. The meeting was organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC).

Some 12 representatives of Iraqi churches attended the gathering, which addressed the challenges facing Christians in Iraq today, particularly issues of safety and security as well as forced migration. They affirmed the status of Iraqi Christians as “authentic children of [the] land,” emphasizing the values of equal citizenship and constructive co-existence.

“Christians have belonged to Iraq since the nation’s birth,” and as “an essential part of Iraqi society deeply rooted in its history and civilization,” they “have the right to live freely” in the country, enjoying “equal rights and responsibilities along with all other citizens,” they said.

Participants in the meeting, some of whom went through the experience of being kidnapped in Iraq, called upon Iraqi Christians “to stay in their homeland and participate actively in its rebuilding and development”. Iraqi Christians have a role “in building educational and social institutions that contribute to national reconciliation, peace building and stability,” they said.

The gathering also called on Western churches “not to encourage migration and resettlement programs for refugees outside Iraq,” but rather to “focus their efforts on bringing back security and stability inside Iraq for all Iraqis,” with the aim of enabling Iraqis to “work together, healing wounds and building a better future”.

Participants at the meeting emphasized the importance of continued dialogue “among Christians and their Muslim brothers and sisters.” They pledged to establish an “ecumenical forum” in order to allow “all Iraqi church leaders to speak in a common voice to religious and political authorities inside and outside Iraq”.

The participants were: Elder Yussef Al-Saka, Presbyterian Church in Baghdad, HE Bishop Mar Mikha Poula Auraha, Chaldean Church in al-Qush,
HE Archbishop Avak Asadourian, Primate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of Iraq ­ Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin; General secretary, Council of Christian Church Leaders in Baghdad, HE Archbishop Basilios Georges Casmoussa, Syrian Catholic Church, Mosul, Fr Nadheer Dako Danha, Chaldean Church, Baghdad, Assistant to the general secretary, Council of Christian Church Leaders in Baghdad, Fr Sargon Esho Daweed, Ancient Assyrian Church of the East, Baghdad HE Archbishop Mar Narsai de Baz, Metropolitan of Syria, Lebanon & Europe and Patriarchal General Vicar of the Assyrian Church of the East, Beirut. HE Bishop Boutros Harbouli, Chaldean Church in Zakho and Nuhedra, HE Archbishop Mor Severius Hawa, Syrian Orthodox Church, Baghdad HE Archbishop Louis Sako, Chaldean Church, Kerkuk, HE Archbishop Mor Gregorios Saliba Shamoun, Syrian Orthodox Church, Mosul, HE Archbishop Jean Sleiman, Latin Archbishop of Baghdad