Iraq: Initiative against constant terror in Kirkuk -?Let us build bridges for peace”

by ACN News
Initiative against constant terror in Kirkuk: ?Let us build bridges for peace?
Luis Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, has joined with fifty representatives of Sunni Islam, Arab tribal leaders and local government representatives in speaking out against violence and terror. On the Archbishop?s initiative, they signed a document entitled ?Let us build bridges for peace?, which was released on the 26.4.2012. The signatories pledge to live together in peace in Kirkuk, which is an object of contention between Kurds and the central government in Baghdad. In a meeting with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Sako explained his most recent action to promote on-going dialogue by saying, ?We Christians have a mission of peace and reconciliation that extends to all people, not just Christians.?

Archbishop Sako (back middle of photo) visting a Church in his diocese of Kirkuk

In this petroleum-rich city in northern Iraq, Kurds make up a slight majority of the population. A referendum on whether to transfer this city to the Autonomous Kurdistan region or leave it under the central government in Baghdad was originally slated for 2007, but has been continually postponed since then. Critics accuse the Kurds of trying to influence the referendum ?demographically? by promoting the immigration of Kurds and the settlement of Arabs. The disputes have long since escalated into severe terrorist attacks. Just last Thursday, a car bomb was detonated in front of a police station, killing four police officers.

The signatories of the dialogue paper unreservedly condemn all forms of physical and verbal violence: ?Violence will not change or improve the situation; rather, it will drown our city in a sea of injustice, social disadvantages and underdevelopment.? Archbishop Sako enjoys great esteem with all the city?s feuding parties. His house is considered a neutral place for informal encounters, as the Chaldean Catholics are not considered a politically relevant factor in view of their small numbers. The Archbishop estimates their numbers at around 10,000 to 12,000 persons, 4% of Kirkuk?s population.