Iraq: Large protest against law forcing children to embrace Islam

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Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako
A protest against the law on the Islamization of minors, held yesterday, Tuesday, November 10, in Baghdad at the Chaldean Church of Saint George, saw the massive participation of Christians and members of other Iraqi religious non-Muslim communities. The protest was convened by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako . The protest was attended by several members of the Iraqi Parliament.

During the demonstration, the Chaldean Patriarch reiterated the intention to appeal to international courts that protect human rights – starting from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights – if the Iraqi Parliament does not amend the law, which also appears in contrast with the articles of the Iraqi constitution that affirms the full equality of all citizens before the law.

The new law forces children from minority faiths to become Muslims if their father converts to Islam or their mother marries a Muslim. A number of religious minorities – including Christians, Yazidis, Mandeans and Bahais – tried without success to modify the proposal so that it read: “minors will keep their current religion until the completion of 18 years of age, then they have the right to choose their religion”.

After the law was passed parliamentarians from minority religions walked out of the chamber in protest.

The Patriarch wrote in a letter to Aid to the Church in Need: “The vote of the deputies of the Iraqis, which was held October 27th, 2015, in favour of the National Charter has generated great resentment among Christians and other non-Muslim minorities.

“It obliges children under 18 to automatically embrace the Muslim religion, if even only one parent decides to convert to Islam

Patriarch Sako wrote: “We want to assert the principle that the child should keep their religious affiliation, so that he or she can freely decide their faith, according to belief, when they come of age. After all, religion is a matter, which concerns only the relationship between God and man, and should not be bound by any obligations. Parliamentarians would do well to worry about an individual become a good citizen, and not meddle in his or her religious faith.”

The law, which is part of the new National Card legislation, is said to conflict with parts of the current Iraqi constitution.

According to the Assyrian International News Agency, when Patriarch Sako met with President Fouad Masoum on 6th November Mr Masoum acknowledged the new law’s constitutional violations and promised to work to find an acceptable solution.

Patriarch Sako pointed out that the new law: “tramples over” several provisions in the iraqi constitution.”

The Chaldean Patriarch also expressed his gratitude to all the groups supporting Christians and other religious minorities in their opposition to the new law. He wrote: “We thank our Muslim brothers, NGOs and human rights delegations in Iraq, for their strong support as we go forward and protest against this discriminatory law and we want to renew our opposition to this homogeneous Charter.”

Source: Anawa/ACN