Iraqi Christian leaders and Shia religious authorities strengthen ties in Najaf

 Najaf, July 4 (AKnews) – The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq met with the country’s leading Shia cleric in the holy city of Najaf today to reinforce ties between the two faiths and to promote the peaceful coexistence of their followers.

Cardinal Delly headed a Chaldean delegation visiting Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in what he described as “a visit of a brother to his brothers in Najaf”.

Asked whether the delegation had any demands to make of the Shia religious authority, Delly replied: “I did not have any demands except for stability in Iraq. We are all brothers and we love each other. Our order remains loyal to and cooperative with everyone”.

Delly prayed for “the safety and protection of all Iraqis”, calling at the same time on the government to hasten the naming of the security ministers, the absence of which, he said, had left a security vacuum in the country.

Another delegation member, Christian Endowment chief, Raad Emanuel al-Shammaa, said they had called on the Shia authorities to add weight to their drive to curb the waves of migration – of all religious groups – resulting from insurgent attacks.

Unofficial statistics indicate that the number of Christians in Iraq has decreased considerably since the 2003 allied invasion. Of the 1.5m Christians living in Iraq before the Iraqi war, current estimates put the figure at less than 500,000, due to the mass migration of Christian families.

Shammaa maintained however that the Christian community was the only religious group that has seen large numbers of its members seeking refuge abroad.

“The Christians are the sons of this country like all Iraqis,” he said, “…there is no group that targets only Christians… Iraqis are all targeted including Sunni and Shia Muslims; Christians, Yazidis, and the followers of all other faiths. We hope terrorism will be defeated overcome so we can all live in peace.”