Iraqi Patriarch calls for law to counter violence-inciting preachers

As one of the oldest Christians populations in Iraq, Chaldean followers have faced recent attempts to expunge followers of their faith from their homeland by extremists saying they are carrying out their terror in the name of Islam. 

Iraqi Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I's latest response has been to call for the enactment of a law to prosecute religious preachers who incite violence and thereby threaten the peaceful coexistence. Christians had lived alongside the majority Muslims and other minority religions in Iraq for hundreds of years. 

That until the invasion in 2003 of the country by the United States and its allies undid a delicate tolerance of citizens belonging to religions and different denominations. The Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, made his request in an address to the Iraqi Parliament, the Catholic Fides news agency reported on March 17. 

He made his call on March 15 as part of a conference organized by the Parliamentary Committee for Religious Affairs. His plea was made in the presence of the President of the Iraqi Parliament - the Sunni Salim al-Jabouri - and several deputies. 

In his speech, Patriarch Louis Raphael outlined the peaceful coexistence among different religious communities as a shared heritage of Iraqi society. He said everyone - from religious leaders - must commit to preserve and defend such co-existence, particularly when it involves preaching and contribution to education and school programs relating to the spread of the culture of pluralism and citizenship rights. 

The Chaldean leader, whose church is aligned with the Holy See in Rome, also recalled the potential to forger a civil status recognizing the distinction between religions and political institutions. Last week Louis Raphael had also reiterated concerns over the worsening conflict in the region, noting that the continuing operations of the Islamic State are wiping out people and civilization. 

In a statement to Asianews.it, the patriarch had also called on the Iraqi government to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis even as it tried to drive away the militants from their stronghold areas. While he acknowledged efforts by the Iraqi military to reclaim control over several towns captured by IS extremists since its emergency in the region last year, 

Sako pointed out that it appeared the government did not consider the impact of the military operations on civilians. "As the Iraqi army ... is in the process of liberating the occupied areas, this has in consequence displaced thousands of families and their emigration towards an unknown future, without having on-site an organized plan to rescue them," Sako said. 

"This being said, we strongly call to the central government in the country and the international community in order to act as soon as possible for the protection of innocent civilians and to offer them the necessary assistance in lodging, food and medications; as well as taking care of thousands of students of universities and schools," he said. 

by Miko Morelos

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