Address by Patriarch Sako at the 55th Munich Security Conference (MSC) 2019
Munich Security annual conference is the world’s largest gathering of its kind, on international security policy and the list of its’ attendees includes Heads of States, Governments and International Organizations, Ministers, Members of Parliament, high-ranking representatives of Armed Forces, Science, Civil Society as well as Business and Media.
At the invitation of MSC President Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German Diplomat and former Ambassador to Washington, His Beatitude Patriarch Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako arrived Munich on Thursday 14 February 2019 to participate in this important Forum.
Below is His Beatitude’s detailed speech:
The 55th edition of Munich Security Conference MSC 15-17 February 2019
Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the
I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the organizers of the 55th edition of Munich Security Conference (MSC). It is a pleasure to be here, promoting peace and dignity for all humankind regardless of religion, gender and nationality.
Basically, we all agree that the core of religious “message” in general, is for people to coexist and cooperate; to achieve peace and security; to assure their freedom and dignity; and to protect environment as well. However, our region has been living in a “non-stop violence” for almost one century.
Therefore, I chose the following points to address my topic
- Reasons Behind the Deterioration of Christians’ Situation in Iraq
- Perspectives for the Future
- Role and Impact of the International Community.
Reasons Behind the Deterioration of Christians’ Situation in Iraq
Historically, the deterioration of Christians’ situation in the region started after the Ottoman Empire era and when the west occupied the Middle East after World War I, since the occupiers have no intention to build a state of citizenship, law, justice and equality. Especially that the population of these countries was not homogeneous, both religiously and ethnically. So, the situation was ready to explode at any time in countries like Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yamen etc.
Additionally, the Israeli – Palestinian conflict is creating tension, by making Muslims believe that the west is supporting Israel against Palestinians, which in turn has motivated political Islam to use violence for taking over this region,. On the other hand, there was a common confusion in the minds of Muslims that since Crusades, the loyalty of Middle – Eastern Christians was linked to the West, which is very wrong.
Later on and since 1980, Iraq was involved in a war with Iran for eight years that resulted in one million dead people, followed by Kuwait war in 1991 triggering destruction of the infrastructure; 13 years of economic embargo; and thousands of dead, among whom were vulnerable children and women.
Moreover, Iraqis have experienced a real “chaos”, upon the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003 and due to the dissolution of the state; firing military and police; as well as the opening of Iraqi borders, which means opening the door wide for Islamic fanatics (terrorists). All this led to sectarianism, corruption, multi-militias! Liquidation of accounts and violence committed in the name of religion, including, bombing, threatening, revenge, kidnapping, murdering, etc.
Such circumstances encouraged politicians, interested in the acquisition of power and money, to create an economic, social and security crisis in Iraq. The consequence were:
- 1,225 Christians have been killed in various violent incidents across Iraq
- 1,000,000 Christians left the country
- 120,000 people were displaced from Mosul and Nineveh Plain towns at one night to face difficulties in camps for three years and half.
- 58 Churches and many mosques have been bombed, burnt or destroyed and looted, so as Christians’ homes.
- 23,000 properties owned by Christians, Yazidis and Sabeans were seized by “Mafias”.
Perspectives for the Future
We have suffered enough. Therefore, we need at this “critical” turning point, to think carefully about reasonable ways that enable us to solve the “outstanding” problems and maintain a common ground, where, we can treasure the culture we have built together throughout history.
I would like here to highlight some suggested solutions.
- Reforming the Constitutions and laws in order to respect life, promote peace and stability. This includes assuring that Governments are applying the established charter of human rights for all citizens, and avoid creating “second-class citizenship”. Especially that Christians and other minorities are facing thousands of problems on daily basis, caused by constitution, laws and the sectarian culture. Equal citizenship means to have the right to live in freedom and dignity rather than being only tolerated, as is the case.
- Demanding a change in schools’ curricula by updating religious national education programs to adjust the process of teaching and learning toward the requirements of modern times, which suits the life of people and achieve their good purposes without affecting their fundamental doctrine and moral values. Programs necessary for the future of harmonic coexistence that consider, separation of religion from the state, protection of all ethnicities and respect of all religions.
- Providing employment opportunities for young people. A generation who is suffering from “disappointment” and fears about future, to ensure a decent life for their families.
- Eliminating the ideology of jihad in Islam or holy war in Christianity and other religions, since every country should have an army and police to protect citizens and defend the homeland.
- Encouraging religious authorities to move from interpreting the scripture literally “i.e. rigid letter” to the appropriate meaning that allows us to understand the “message” properly and apply it on our personal daily life. In other word, to look for an “exegesis” and an update, similar to what the Church did and based on what Saint Paul stated in the 2nd letter to the Corinthians: “for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life” (3/6). Here, I would like to point out the “invalidity” of some verses and the Hadiths in all religions, since it has been written at certain time and circumstances to justify exceptional cases.
- Promoting humanitarian and national participation to endorse a spirit of fraternity, affection and respect for the right of religious and intellectual pluralism. If different religions have a sincere dialogue to understand the importance of the spiritual dimensions of religions, such as the urge to obey God, respect humankind and environment. They will definitely bring peace to the world. Let us hope that the visit of Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates from 3-5 February 2019 and the signing of “Humanitarian Fraternity” document, will have a positive impact on the vanishing of extremism and its’ causes, as well as motivating the dialogue on human dignity and peace to move forward. Personally, I hope that Christians and Muslims will invest this initiative to build a more peaceful and stable world.
- Preserving the Christian patrimony. Especially, that we have in Iraq Churches and monasteries of the 5th Century, standing as a living witness of Christianity on this land.
Role and Impact of the International Community
The instability in the Middle East contributed to Christians’ dilemma, because of the “Western policy” that encourages conflict in this region rather than promoting democracy and freedom, as they claimed. In other word, the “Western Decision Makers” were doing whatever it takes to promote their economy and serve their own purposes at the expense of our countries. For instance, by controlling oil and other natural resources, as well as selling weapons for both fighting “partners” etc.
Therefore, the United States of America and the International Community should be committed “sincerely” to work with the Iraqi Government for the stabilization of the country and promoting reconciliation. This requires supporting the efforts for establishing a strong state of civic, democratic and modern constitution assuring a full citizenship for all Iraqis. We need political, economic and cultural Marshal Plan to “recover” and have stability.
Now that Nineveh Plain is liberated from ISIS (Da’esh), a quick stabilization of the area is essential to facilitate the rapid return of the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and ensure long-term protection. Hence, firm legal guarantees are important for Christians to have self-administration as well as government participation in areas where they are majority. This project could be the key for reconciliation, rebuilding trust and for a long-lasting stability in Iraq.
Knowing that the Iraqi Government has contributed “NOTHING” to help the IDPs returning back to their towns in Nineveh Plain, due to the ongoing corruption and the claim of having no “money” for the restoration of “destroyed” homes, schools, Churches, dispensaries and even for basic services (water, electricity, roads, etc), the Church bear the responsibility of doing that with the help of international donors to “slightly” bring life back to Nineveh Plain towns, due to their limited resources.
Therefore, it is urgent for all the international community to assist the displaced families by developing an effective strategy that responds to challenges of current and future times to achieve peace and prosperity in this “supposedly rich” country.
It is actually a crime that people are persecuted because of their faith. However, no matter how discouraging are the chances to achieve stability in this region, we are firmly convinced, that the future is promising, due to our persistence in strengthening life’s respect and promoting peace.