Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Responding to the launched by the Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis Sako, yesterday evening the diocesan council of Baghdad organized a peaceful protest against the infamous article 26 of the Constitution, on the “Islamization of their children.” The event was held in the local church of St. George and had a large turnout among the Chaldean community.
The protest was attended by His Beatitude, the representatives of the Christian communities and the civil society organizations, representatives of media and a large group of citizens, Christians and Muslims.
The protest organized by the Chaldean Church began with the national anthem, followed by the intervention of the patriarch.
Addressing the gathering, Mar Sako stressed “freedom for everyone, including the freedom of religion” and “there cannot be a mandatory law on faith, which is a grace of God.” The message of the religions, the common human values and basic rights “guarantee the natural and legal freedom of persons”. For this “the the Iraqi parliament’s approval of the unified National Charter – by act of October 27, 2015 – is a coercion against Christian, Yazidi and Sabean children ” below the age of 18, forced to “convert to Islam, when one of the parents decides to officially proclaim to be Muslim (Art. 26 / II). All this “is contrary to the values of the citizens” continued the leader of the Chaldean Church, and is a factor that causes serious damage “to national unity and balance of the community, its religious pluralism and the principle of coexistence.”
In his speech, the Chaldean patriarch continued attacking a law that “contradicts the Koran” itself, which declares in many verses that “there can be no compulsion on the subject of religion.” Indeed, it is “an affront to the many provisions of the Iraqi Constitution”, including Article 3 which states that “Iraq is a multi-ethnic country” with different religions and cults. And yet, art. 37 / II that “the State shall guarantee the protection of the individual from political and religious coercion.” And art. 42 that “everyone has freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, which intersects with Article 18 of the Charter of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – recalls March Sako – and this right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom of expression in teaching, practice, worship and in its observance, both in private and communal”.
Mar Sako thanked “our Muslim brothers” and “gentlemen” who “voted against the approval of Article 26” and the representatives of minorities “who walked out of Parliament” at the time of the vote. Moreover, he recalls the certificates of support and solidarity received by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq, who did not fail speak out against “against this unjust law”.
“Today – added the Chaldean patriarch – we reiterate our position of rejection of an identity card that divides, rather than unites the Iraqi people” and “asks that minor children be left their religion, leaving them free to choose according to their beliefs at the coming of age “. Because, he warns, “religion is a personal relationship between God and the human being.” “We want to point out at the same time – he continues – that if Parliament approves this law, we will make our voice heard at the international level, including the denunciation of the Iraqi Parliament itself at the UN Council for Human Rights.”
“It is regrettable – Mar Sako concludes – that the Iraqi parliament is concerned with the question of the religion of the child, leaving aside other key issues: the liberation of the occupied areas by the Islamic State (there are also Christian factions fighting), fighting corruption, services and assistance to three million refugees with winter approaching, the fight against unemployment and the right to education of youth. “
The leadership of the Chaldean Church continue to dream “a homeland for all, that it becomes a tent that can accommodate Christians, Yazidis, Sabeans, believers and nonbelievers, all Iraqis … A stable and prosperous country, that can guarantee the dignity of its citizens . Long live Iraq. “
*Fr. Sakvan Matti is a priest archieparchy of Baghdad of the Chaldeans