Mgr Louis Sako receives the 2010 Pax Christi International Peace Award for his work in Iraq

iraq_f_1209_-_iraq_-_louis_sako1.jpgThe archbishop of Kirkuk is rewarded for his work on behalf of the Iraqi people, which is seeking peace and reconciliation. The award ceremony took place at the headquarters of the French Bishops’ Conference in Paris.

Paris (AsiaNews) – The Annual Pax Christi International Peace Award for 2010 was given to Mgr Louis Sako, Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk in Iraq. Mgr Louis Sako is one of the most prominent defenders of Iraq’s endangered minorities and a staunch advocate of the difficult process of democratisation and reconciliation in Iraq. A delegation of Pax Christi International visited Iraq in 2009 to underline its commitment to aid the Iraqi people in their quest for peace and reconciliation.

The Award Ceremony took place at the headquarters of the French Bishops’ Conference in Paris on 8 December 2010. Pax Christi International was represented by Claudette Werleigh, secretary general, Greet Vanaerschot, deputy secretary general, and by Mgr Marc Stenger, member of the Executive Committee of Pax Christi International and president of Pax Christi France.

Here is Mgr Louis Sako’s address during the award ceremony.

1 – The Good News Jesus Christ brings to humanity is a “practical” message designed to meet its needs, not a “theoretical” one.

As in the past, people today suffer from divisions, conflicts, even wars. For this reason, the Angels sang “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill to all people.” In the Syriac version of the Bible, called Peshitta, it says, “Goodwill to men who hope.”

The peace of Christ consists of the following proclamation: “God is your father, and you are all brothers. Live in the peace and joy of the kingdom.” This is why Christians are called to be the builders of this project: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

2 – Peace is a necessity for humanity as a whole, and its true hope, because without it there is not life, freedom and dignity.

I come from a martyred country where the Church is persecuted. I know violence, death, fears, suffering and the anxious quest for refuge that leads to exile. Just remember the slaughter at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral in Baghdad, which left many people dead, including two young priests, and many wounded.

Peace in our hearts and in our countries can help us overcome difficulties and obstacles, as well as accept differences and respect diversity rather than wiping out those who are different from us.

3 – We must ask for this peace through prayer because God will grant it to us. It is so deep and inside us that no one can take it away.

A man who prays cannot be violent and selfish. Without a doubt, he will be concerned about other people’s lives and well-being.

A man who prays is open, loving, open-minded, generous, forgiving and willing to work with others. He broadens his horizons to include everyone, without distinction, exclusion or marginalisation.

4 – Peace is God’s plan for man, like unity, truth, beauty and love. If we accept this plan, we shall be in peace. Then, true intimacy will be achieved among us as brothers.

5 – Peace makes us grow. It develops and spreads when the concept of coexistence among the parts of a society takes root in us, and when we move away from all sorts of hatred, hostility or violence.

Today Iraqis are called to a peace of reconciliation and love; the more so since we are now into the month of Christmas, and that our Muslim brothers have just finished celebrating al-adha (the sacrifice), two celebrations that constitute strong moments of prayer and conversion.

Perhaps Christians today need to recycle themselves spiritually in their Christianity and in their commitment when they meet persecuted Christians.

I hope the seven lean years are past us. I am certain that the blood of martyred believers will lead to something good for Iraq and that Iraqis will soon enjoy peace and stability, as you do in the West.

Lastly, I want to thank from the bottom of my heart Pax Christi International for this award, which “goes to all Iraqis”. I want to thank His Excellency Mgr Marc Stenger for being so close to us in these years of trial, as well as Pax Christi for its solidarity.

Mgr Stenger came to Iraq twice. In Kirkuk, he led a Pax Christi International delegation, in order to encourage hope and perseverance.

I promise you that I shall do all in I can to promote a culture of dialogue and peace