Kirkuk, IRAQ - Chaldean Archbishop Sako has been elected interim chairman of the Iraqi Council of Christians. A newly formed body that works to broker peace in Iraq and help communicate the importance of Christians in the Middle East. The Archbishop explains that the goal is to create a single unit to engage with the authorities and Christians’ Muslim brothers, but not to be a political party.
The idea developed after a series of deadly coordinated attacks against Christian early this year across Iraq. Iraqi Christians remain at risk and weakened by persecution and continual harassment. Mass emigration and without proper political representation the indigenous people of Iraq are fast faltering. Working at first at the local level the Christian Council is hoping to create a unified voice that will work to promote peace and solidarity among all Iraqis.
For now their initiative is limited to Kirkuk and chaired for the time being by Chaldean archbishop, Mgr Louis Sako. The Council will engage in dialogue local political authorities and promote peaceful co-existence with Christians’ and “Muslim brothers.”
Backed by Iraqi President Talabani, the Council will help bring together Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syro-Catholics and Armenian Orthodox and share a “common voice.”
The council will be composed of 30 members, clergy and laity, and meet once a month. “The Christian community welcomed the news about the Council’s creation,” he said. “I hope other cities follow Kirkuk’s example.”
According to Monsignor Sako, the lack of internal cohesion and shared views and goals are the Christian community’s greatest weakness. “The main goal” in setting up the council “is to create a Christian common front,” he said. “If we have questions and problems we must be united to study them and propose solutions to the government.” But the newly-established council “is not a political party; it does not represent any side and has no intention of interfering with the work of parties.”
In Kirkuk, there are 12,000 Christians out of a population of about a million. In the last few years the city has taken in a lot of internally displaced people who fled the north from more dangerous areas like Baghdad and Mosul.
The city has recently received the solidarity of Europe’s Christians. A 12-member delegation from Pax Christi France-Italy visited the archdiocese last Sunday.
Led by French bishop Mgr Marc Stenger, the delegation also visited Christian villages located in the Nineveh Plains and in Iraqi Kurdistan.