Below is the Christmas and New Year’s message of Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, entitled: ‘Christmas: Peace for Humanity’ to his people. The text has been provided by the Patriarchate:
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Sisters and brothers
Amidst the concerns and worries of Iraqis, Syrians, and people of the Middle East, in which children and civilians are victims of a harsh war, millions of persons are displaced from their homes, driven out of their lands, are living in tragic conditions, after the destruction of their towns’ infrastructure. Here is Christmas coming to remind us of the importance of peace and the drastic need for it. “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good hope to men of good will!” is a call that aims at reviving our faith and enthusiasm to realize a just and lasting peace for all humanity, which consolidates the bonds of brotherhood, and strengthens coexistence against fanaticism, extremism, and violent acts.
What was delivered to the shepherds on Christmas Eve is Good News for us as well. “I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people” (Luke 2:10-11). So, let us entrust ourselves to this grace that offers us peace of mind and joy. This Good News is not mere wishful thinking. It is the title for a lifelong project that can be realized by the one who can understand it and find joy in it. Also, for those who have the courage to go ahead with it and were reborn from above. Those who are able to stand before God cleansing their hearts and minds by dedicating their love to God and his people.
Sisters and brothers
Through the birth of Jesus Christ, God became close to us, Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’. He wants, from eternity and forever, to be a human God rather than a God without human beings. Therefore, the story of Jesus Christ is the story of God incarnated for our sake, and to be with us, so that we may be free and happy.
We sing during Christmas for love and peace. Here is an example of one of our hymns: On Christmas Eve love blossoms, to wipe out hatred, and war fire is turned off. If we offer a glass of water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, wipe tears from eyes, and fill hearts with hope, we are in a Christmas spirit. When the spirit of revenge dies out in us, when hatred disappears from our hearts, we are in a Christmas spirit, which means to live the values of charity and joy amongst ourselves away from shaping of backward thinking.
Christmas aims to offer a new life and a better future, as stated by Pope Francis, who calls upon us to “live a life entitled by peace desired by humanity whereby wars and struggles are ceased”. Consequently, the realization of an authentic and harmonious Iraqi National Accord is urgently needed at both levels, of Iraq and Regional Government(Kurdistan). It is also necessary at the moment to adopt a new culture for a new time that would secure a peaceful communal life for us. Hence the Iraqi leaders must build a strong civil state, revise the current conventional educational system, out of a tribal mentality, with an inclination for revenge, and envious behaviors, and replace it with one opened culture that aims to rehabilitate men, and teach them the worthy human and moral values on which every integrated society is founded.
In this Christmas and in the coming New Year of 2017, a week from now, I invite you to intensify your prayers so that there will be an end to war and the anguish from which people suffer, especially the civilians, including children, displaced families (IDPs) as well as the destroyed infrastructure of their home towns in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere around the world. I also call upon the world leaders to work steadfastly for peace and justice and to protect people’s lives and respect their dignity.
Sisters and brothers
I would like on this occasion to express my heart-felt congratulations for a Merry Christmas, trusting that I am closer to you than ever so that this feast may revive our people’s hope to return to their homes, ancestral lands, history and memories. I would like here to express my gratefulness to all those who extended their hands to ease the suffering of the IDPs, especially the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Church Charitable Organizations, and Civil Society. I would like also to thank the heroes of the Iraqi Army, the Peshmerga, the Popular and National Mobilization, and those from the Christian Component of Iraq, for liberating the Iraqi lands occupied by the ISIS terrorists. I definitely feel your worries, pain and suffering and will continue to work to the best of my ability with my brothers, the bishops and priests, support you by all means.
Sisters and brothers
At this particular time, I urge you to hold fast to your land, maintain your homes, and keep good relationships with all the components of the Iraqi society, instead of declining, fearing, and being a victim of random emigration, I encourage you to engage in humanitarian, educational, social, health, and political institutions in order to contribute to the spread and promotion of tolerance, acceptance of others, mutual respect, and cooperation, in a framework of unity and diversity plurality for the sake of laying down a solid foundation for an integrated civil society away from the sectarian form, that will honor our country and serve all our citizens.
These difficult choices represent a project of survival against the emergence of new struggles that otherwise, will divide our country and our people. These choices must be transformed into a message that expresses the will of God for us, and accept it with an open heart and joy, that will be for us a fountain of goodness, peace and prosperity. Finally, I am assuring you that our Church will not spare any effort for cooperating with Muslim religious authorities, civil society, organizations and all people with good will to support this promising project.
Merry Christmas and happy New Year! May peace triumph in Iraq, Kurdistan and the world.
[Original text: English] [Courtesy of Chaldean Patriarchate of Babylon]