A group of Christians meeting in Lebanon have declared that people of their faith have belonged to Iraq since the nation’s birth and that they are not just a minority but an essential part of Iraqi society and deeply rooted in its history and civilization.
“As authentic children of this land, they have the right to live freely in it and enjoy equal rights and responsibilities along with all other citizens,” the 12 Iraqi church leaders said after their meeting on Feb. 10 and 11 in Dar Sayedat Al Jabal, Fatka in Lebanon.
“The solution to current conditions lies not in emptying Iraq of its human resources,” said the participants at the meeting that was organized by the Geneva-based World Council of Churches. The meeting addressed challenges now facing Christians in Iraq, particularly issues of safety and security as well as enforced migration.
“Christians have belonged to Iraq since the nation’s birth; they are not merely a minority but an essential part of Iraqi society and deeply rooted in its history and civilization,” participants stated.Some of the participants in the meeting had experienced being kidnapped in Iraq, but they called upon Iraqi Christians, “to stay in their homeland and participate actively in its rebuilding and development”. Iraqi Christians have a role, “in building educational and social institutions that contribute to national reconciliation, peace building and stability,” they said.
The gathering also called on Western churches not to encourage migration and resettlement programmes for refugees outside Iraq, but, “to focus their efforts on bringing back security and stability inside Iraq for all Iraqis.”
The goal, said participants, “is to enable Iraqis to work together, healing wounds and building a better future for themselves.”
The participants stressed the importance of continued dialogue between Christians and Muslims. They pledged to establish an ecumenical forum in order to allow “all Iraqi church leaders … to speak with a common voice to religious and political authorities inside and outside Iraq.”
Among those attending the meeting were: Elder Yussef Al-Saka of the Presbyterian Church in Baghdad; Bishop Mar Mikha Poula Auraha of the Chaldean Church in al-Qush; Archbishop Avak Asadourian, of the Armenian Church of Iraq; Archbishop Basilios Georges Casmoussa of the Syrian Catholic Church, Mosul; the Rev. Sargon Esho Daweed of the Ancient Assyrian Church of the East, Baghdad; Archbishop Mor Severius Hawa of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Baghdad; Archbishop Louis Sako of the Chaldean Church, Kirkuk and Archbishop Jean Sleiman, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad.