Kirkuk: Christians together to make their voice heard

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) – Divided at the national level, without proper political representation and weakened by mass emigration, Iraqi Christians are trying to set up a common front to better pursue their interests. For now their initiative is limited to Kirkuk where a Council of Christians is being set up, chaired for the time being by Chaldean archbishop, Mgr Louis Sako, who will engage in dialogue local political authorities and promote peaceful co-existence with Christians’ “Muslim brothers.”

The idea developed after a series of attacks in early January against Christian targets across Iraq.

The prelate himself told AsiaNews that the body, which is backed by Iraqi President Talabani, will bring together Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syro-Catholics and Armenian Orthodox to be their “common voice.”

The council will be composed of 30 members, clergy and laity, and meet once a month.

Archbishop Sako said that during this phase he will chair the council but added that he wants a lay person to take over.

“The Christian community welcomed the news about the Council’s creation,” he said. “I hope other cities follow Kirkuk’s example.”

According to Monsignor Sako, the lack of internal cohesion and shared views and goals are the Christian community’s greatest weakness.

“The main goal” in setting up the council “is to create a Christian common front,” he said. “If we have questions and problems we must be united to study them and propose solutions to the government.” But the newly-established council “is not a political party; it does not represent any side and has no intention of interfering with the work of parties.”

In Kirkuk, there are 12,000 Christians out of a population of about a million. In the last few years the city has taken in a lot of internally displaced people who fled the north from more dangerous areas like Baghdad and Mosul.

The city has recently received the solidarity of Europe’s Christians. A 12-member delegation from Pax Christi France-Italy visited the archdiocese last Sunday.

Led by French bishop Mgr Marc Stenger, the delegation also visited Christian villages located in the Nineveh Plains and in Iraqi Kurdistan.