Chaldeans are the Indigenous People of Iraq
Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako
Historically, Chaldeans are inhabitants of Mesopotamia and Iraq’s indigenous; their roots are traced back to thousands of years. Babylon was the capital of Chaldean’s great empire that ruled Mesopotamia during the 7th Century BC and expanding to the north and west. We still have a witness of their great religious and cultural heritage, such as, Ziggurats, Tower of Babel, Hanging Gardens, the Code of Hammurabi, Ishtar Gate, Lion of Babel, and the Ur Tunnel. Their ancestors planted vineyards, palms, olives and wheat. They excelled at irrigation, architecture, music, poetry, lawmaking and astronomy.
Ancient ruins, antiquities and written monuments preserved the inventions and creativity of Chaldeans and other Iraqi Christians in Science, medicine, culture, art, etc. both before and after the arrival of Islam, especially during the Abbasid period. We proudly mention here “Beit El-Hikma” as a place and source of knowledge including writing and translations, in addition to famous Chaldean physicians and treasurers of Caliphates.
Christian Chaldeans also made a significant contribution to the scientific and literature revival in modern Iraq. They offered much to humanity through their monasteries and schools specialized particularly in medicine, agriculture, engineering, construction, trade, economics, writing, printing, and journalism. We cannot ignore the prominent role played by some Chaldean families in public life.
In the past century, Chaldean people, like other religious and ethnic components, were subjected to violent conflict, slaughter and displacement, as it happened in Safar-Birlik 1915-1918, when four Chaldean diocese vanished. Recently and in the past 50 years, Chaldeans and other Iraqi minorities were subjected to violations and displacement due to frequent wars, and the unprecedented attacks of extremist Islamist movements such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS (Da’esh). As a result people were disappointment, felt insecure, lost confidence in the future and ultimately found themselves forced to leave the country. Therefore, emigration affected their historical presence in Iraq and weakened their role in its’ society. Although those who remained persistent, maintained their roots connection and clung to their homeland despite the failure of successive governments in assuring their rights as an indigenous people of this land. For instance, school curricula excluded Christians’ history (including Chaldeans’) and ignored what they offered to their Muslim brothers and all that they sacrificed for their country.
Although Church does not directly intervene in politics, but it is deeply influenced by political changes that “shakes” the social fabric, the demographic and economic reality, and do not respect the rights of Christians, in terms of, equality with other citizens (e.g. the law of the Islamization of minors). Therefore and since the church embodies the integrity in the country, it has to play a proactive role in supporting national cohesion, defending the rights of people, the ruling of law and responding appropriately to the concerns and needs of the community. This is what the Church did during the displacement of Christians and non-Christians from Mosul and the towns of the Nineveh Plain and currently is restoring their homes to speed up their return.
In light of the changes mentioned above, and despite the decline in Christians’ social and cultural presence in Iraq, due to the decrease in their numbers, same as it happened to other ethnic and sectarian groups, I find that now is an urgent historical moment for Chaldeans, in particular and Christians in general, to bear their responsibilities in the political process, authentically and free from fear and “dependant” mentality and tendency to emigrate. This national and Christian consciousness should be as vital as salt and yeast, to come out with the desired results.
As a shepherd and a father, I urge everyone, especially the Iraqi Chaldeans at home and abroad, to participate in the upcoming parliamentary election on the 12 May 2018 and vote to those who are best suited to serve them and Iraq. Keeping in mind that election is a national, moral and Christian responsibility to ensure a modern constitutional civil government that believes in pluralism and preserves the cultural and civilizational heritage of all components!
On the other hand, I advise the Chaldean activists to think carefully about establishing a political party to be named as “Chaldean Union” (Huyada Kaldaya), which may include the parties on the scene, and attracts competent individuals at home and abroad, excluding opportunists and talkative people.
In this context, I hope that one of the priorities of this party has to strive to form a strong alliance together with the Assyrian, Syriac and Armenian parties, representing the Christians in the “House of Representatives” and the political activities. I hope that such a “vital project” will be implemented away from the interference of the Church. This way, Christians would be able to demand the amendment of the current constitution and its inclusion in articles that explicitly recognize Christians’ existence and guarantee our national, religious, political and cultural rights.
Finally, I would like to share with you that, I sincerely wished and pursued a unified list for Christians in 2018 parliamentary election “since we are stronger together”, but it didn’t work, unfortunately, due to the agendas supporting some Christian parties as well as the individual interests!