ROME, AUG. 20, 2010 (Zenit.org).- To rise again, Iraq cannot but count on Christians, and that is why the government has committed itself to ensure their future, according to the Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See.
Habbeb Mohammed Hadi Ali Al-Sadr, who began last month to represent Iraq at the Holy See, made this affirmation in a press statement. He reported that he asked Benedict XVI “to encourage Christians to return to their country with a willing spirit for its reconstruction, being the cultural, technical and economic part which Iraq cannot do without in its new growth.”
“For its part, the government has committed itself to all those who return, to give them a job, a plot to rebuild their homes and 1.5 million Iraqi dinars,” he added.
Christians make up less than 3% of Iraq, and that number is drastically reduced compared to previous years due to massive emigration of Iraqi Christians.
But the ambassador affirmed that the Constitution sanctions the total equality of rights for Christians, and “has also given them the possibility, wherever they so wish, to create a region with a special status, such as that of Kurdistan, where they can adopt Syriac or Aramaic as the official language.”
He added that five parliamentary seats have been allocated to Christians, in addition to eventual posts at the regional and provincial level.
“Today Iraqi Christians fully enjoy liberty of worship, as well as civil and political rights: Many of them are fully inserted in the political world carrying out important tasks. […] Recently three ambassadors were appointed,” he asserted. He added that Christians have and exercise free speech in the press and that Christian television channels are proof of this.
Al-Sadr also pointed to an independent Christian superintendence “geared to the conservation of the Christian patrimony.”
“To this end every year considerable sums of money have been allocated,” he explained. “Also every year dozens of our children are sent to Rome to study the different theological sciences to return afterward as priests.”
“To stimulate tourism, also religious tourism, is among the projects of the superintendence. One of these is the organization of a pilgrimage to Ur, the city of Abraham’s birth,” he added. The ambassador said another great project and desire of collaboration would be a papal visit.
All this in order to guarantee “the protection and maintenance of the whole artistic cultural patrimony of Iraq’s Christians.”
The ambassador spoke of anti-Christian violence plaguing Iraq, contending that “the terrorists have understood that the blood of Iraqi Muslims that they have shed as rivers is not so interesting for the Western media.”
“From the moment in which they desire to attract the attention of the whole world on their horrible actions, only to affirm their existence, that is, to the whole world that democracy will never take hold in Iraq, they have decided to strike in a systematic way, having understood that this is the fastest way to achieve their objective,” he said.
Al-Sadr suggested that Western media and organizations, without intending it, have played into the hands of terrorists by “being interested in the Christians, in their future and in the lack of development of the society, thus putting the spotlight on terrorist deeds.”
He added that “the first to condemn all the attacks against Christians have always been Iraqis of all the communities that make up the country.”
The ambassador said linking terrorism to Islam is a “mistaken prejudice and an illogical judgment that Western media fuels, stressing only the work of fundamentalist groups, without saying anything about the goodness of the actions and community life of so many other Muslims who live peacefully among non-Muslims desirous of being open to the other.”
Al-Sadr encouraged all governments to fight fundamentalism, “to dry up their economic sources and sources of thought,” “to pull down the wall of separation between the rich and poor nations,” “to stop the putting into practice of hypocritical policies of the great powers when speaking of Arab or Muslim issues.”
Finally, the Iraqi representative stressed the need “to promote a true and fruitful dialogue between the various cultures and religions,” to address the present challenges, among them terrorism, unbelief, family divisions, environmental problems and the emerging water crisis.
“As long as this doesn’t happen,” he affirmed, “there will not be a unitary posture against today’s world threats embodied in radicalism and fundamentalism and there will not be a unitary posture against any other world problem.”