"Our Christian brothers" must be thanked for they are an element of peace and coexistence for Iraq, because "despite having suffered a lot," they have never responded to attacks with violence, but have continued to promote unity in a country that "has to be of and for everyone," Shia religious leader Ali Al-Yacoubi told AsiaNews.
Speaking at the prayer for peace in Iraq, Syria and the entire Middle East region held this week in Baghdad, at a time characterised by the barbarity of Jihadi groups, political crises and attacks against ethnic and religious groups, including Christians, the representative of the Shia Awkaf (Endowment) said that "Iraq is for Christians, for Yazidis, for Muslims and for every citizen in search of peace."
"I want to thank [the Chaldean Church and the] Patriarch for the invitation and I extend greetings to all those present at this celebration," the Shia religious leader said. "I take this opportunity to reiterate our brotherhood to all the people of Iraq, as well as our concerns for security against any deed or act of terrorism. Let us pray to God to protect Iraq, bring peace and unite our hearts in love for this beloved homeland".
Heeding Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako's appeal, various Iraqi religious leaders, diplomats and ordinary citizens took part in the afternoon prayer in Baghdad's Queen of the Rosary Church. The occasion gave them an opportunity to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the end of the month of May dedicated to Our Lady and the upcoming start of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and prayer. Participants recited hymns, psalms and prayers, led by Baghdad's choir.
Many important figures took part in the initiative, including Sheikh Yousif Al-Nasery, Secretary General of the Shura Council, Sayyed Ibrahim al-Jaber, representative of Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr's movement, as well as diplomats and members of Iraqi civil society groups.
Former Prime Minister and current Vice President Iyad Allawi sent a telegram of praise and support for the event strongly promoted by the Chaldean Church. Sunni representative Abdul-Latif Al-Humaim was unable to attend due to last minute commitments.
Everyone present stressed the importance of reconciliation, peace, equality and the promotion of harmonious coexistence, which are elements on which to build a modern, multi-confessional, secular, and open Iraq.
Participants also included Church figures from Baghdad, Sabean and Yazidi representatives, ambassadors and members of Parliament. After the ceremony religious leaders placed a candle at the foot of the statue of the Virgin, hoping that it would enlighten the minds of the terrorists and promote a culture of "tolerance and love."
In his address, the Chaldean patriarch noted that the Jubilee Year of Mercy and Ramadan are "an opportunity to correct mutual perceptions" and "choose the way that leads to peace, reconciliation and building of mutual trust."
Mar Sako also urged those present to join efforts to spread a "culture of tolerance", strengthen "the values ??of belonging" to the nation, and "stay away from all forms of extremism". Finally, His Beatitude invited all present to exchange a sign of peace and shake hands.
By Joseph Mahmoud