HB The Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako
Establish a Culture of Constructive and Positive Dialogue
We are not revealing a secret when we talk about how the conflicts and transformations taking place in Iraq and the region have been pulled into the church including the Chaldean Church. In addition, the emigration challenges, such as, dispersion, scattering and melting into the culture of different foreign countries, have been posing a threat to the unity of our church and distorting its’ balanced presence. On the other hand, we have the inner canon difficulties, one of which is the traditional speech that has no more impact on the conscience of the people, their thoughts and hearts, depending on their country, culture, educational background as well as their sensitivity in facing such an invasion of a huge amount of information received via social media causing an overturn in their values. Therefore, such a complex and diverse situation cannot be ignored or go by unnoticed, but rather need to be studied and analyzed to provide a clear vision and a systematic program of action for the future of the Church and the Chaldean people.
In view of this, I would like to share some ideas in order to activate the quiet and constructive dialogue that enables us to sustainably proceed in developing and renewing our practices in an adequate way that matches the time and place requirements. This can be achieved through developing the skills that helps in conversing with others, learning from experience, and even from failures.
Obstacles and Restrictions
1. The Role of the Patriarch and the Chaldean Synod
We are suffering from the followings:
a. Deficiencies in spiritual formation, theological and canon laws for some members of the clergy as well as the absence of programming and updating church related practices.
b. Presence of some traditional conservative mentalities (in both administering and the way of thinking) as well as the presence of those who have a tendency to be independent and have stubborn style of thinking. Both cases hinder the teamwork and harm the unity of the church, opening the door wide for the opportunists to work freely in Iraq and the region, (e.g. evangelical Christian who become more active after the fall of the former regime in Iraq, they are also widely spread abroad).
In spite of all that, it is required from the Patriarch and the Synod Fathers to work collectively as one team with united hearts, shared vision and combined abilities to serve their faithful in forming them how to:
i. Be more conscious.
ii. Trust and accommodate others
iii. Deal wisely with the circumstances and related risks.
2. Chaldean Church, "Church of Martyrs"
The Chaldean Church suffers, not only from terrorism, expulsion and exclusion, but also from destructive criticism that has no connection with reality. However, such negative criticism expresses the psychological status of the critics and their ability to create conflicts and block the way of renewal and progress. It is really unfortunate that "rumors and gossip" becomes part of the culture of our society.
3. The Role of the Congregation of Oriental Churches
It is expected that the Congregation of Oriental Churches would support and empower the Patriarch by respecting the decisions of the Synod and endorsing their presence to become more united and powerful leading authority of the church. Sometimes we miss the opportunity to move forward due to the bureaucratic interference of the Congregation. We at the Oriental Churches do not have shortage of ideas, but rather know our situation better than anyone else. We recall, for example, the Congregation’s approach for the illegal status of priests and monks who left their dioceses and monasteries moving to other parishes in the West and overriding our decision by dismantling many of the monks-priests from their vows to be priests only. Such decision impacted the congregation negatively and created confusion among the faithful. We believe that the time has come for the Holy See to re-consider the subject of geographic area (territory) of the Catholic Patriarchs, since the Patriarch is the Father and the Head of his churches, no matter where are they. As it is the case of the Patriarchs of Non-Catholic Eastern Churches.
4. The Situation in Iraq, Syria and the Region
Many factors have contributed to eradicate Christians from their homeland and push them to emigrate, such as:
a. The wars, sectarian conflicts and the resulted deterioration of security and economic situation.
b. The absence of law and equality, in contrary to what is found in developed countries.
c. The growing of religious extremism.
We understand that this “brain drain” is a big loss to the country and the region.
5. Christian Churches
Some Christian churches compete with each other and become isolated counting on nationalism rather than approaching others to talk about unity and balanced relations. Away from flattering and in order to strengthen the Christian presence we need to synchronize our activities in a way that maintains its uniqueness, and put it in the frame of:
a. Courageous dialogue
b. Understanding and reconciliation
c. Honest and effective ecumenical collaboration.
6. Christian Parties
Competition between Christian Parties as well as their tendency to nationalism and their favoritism to this side or the other have weakened their performance in defending Christian rights and created a status of frustration. In this regard, I refer the readers to go through the “critical” article of the Vice President of the Kurdistan Regional Parliament Mr. Jaffer Ibrahim Emenki in the web.
Aspirations and Proposals
Since time is of the essence, we don’t have to dwell on the past or just sit down watching and waiting while the region is boiling and moving towards an unknown future. Instead, we need to focus on the most significant question: How can we together approach a clear vision and find out the practical solutions, away from the self-reliant mentality?
Step 1: Formation of a Committee of Skilled People (Lobby)
A committee that includes academics, experts, intellectuals, journalists, etc. to study all the challenges and risks that we face as clergy and people in order to draw a road map for the next phase. I am referring here to the importance of financial transparency and good administration. This step could be a preparation for holding a General Chaldean Synod of all Chaldeans, as happened in 1995. Unfortunately, the outcome of that synod ends up as words on paper only.
Step 2: Support for the Chaldean Church Leadership
Since “one hand cannot clap”, we need a new way of thinking to face the current challenges with courage and strength. Therefore, it is urgently needed to involve the committed faithful, (males and females) in the Diocese Council and related specialized committees as declared by the “canon laws”, so the decisions will be collectively made wise, comprehensive with a clear vision. This contribution will help the Chaldean Church leaders to manage (up to date) their parishes, dioceses in a way that responds to the time and place requirements. In conclusion, it is not enough for clergy to do the traditional rituals and spiritual services only and forget about the cultural and social aspects.
Step 3: Christian Youth
The presence of Christians in this part of the world will be in threat if they retreat or withdraw from the scene. Hence, it is important to encourage young Chaldean Christian (Christian youth in general) to stay in their homeland and invite them to enroll in both, the Central and Kurdistan Regional Government institutions and have an influential presence. I call you also to promote the Chaldean League and similar Associations / Organizations to play their role in preserving our heritage, language and traditions. In addition, it may be useful to build a well-planned, “Popular Movement” for our people at home and abroad to protect our present and future in collaboration with other citizens. This way will enable us to bring back optimism and confidence in achieving peace and stability. Besides, it will help in establishing a civil society with a common citizenship that respects equally the rights and dignity of all.
Step 4: People in Diaspora
Once the situation stabilizes, a comprehensive plan needs to be studied and developed urging Iraqis in diaspora to invest in their homeland so as to encourage their fellow Christians to stay in Iraq. People from civil society, politicians, businessmen, private sector etc. may be involved in such planning.
Step 5: Emergency Relief
We need to put together an emergency team of good people (males and females) who are well-known for their wisdom, capability and reliability to help responding directly to the crisis.
As I submit these ideas, I invite you to study and analyze it, especially that we are living in an unprecedented era of our time. For the common good, I sincerely hope to see an ideal cooperation between all churches and Christian organizations / leagues / associations etc. Our ancestors gave a lot to their countries, including cultural, educational, social, economic, values.
Today is our turn to prove that we are worthy to be their descendants.