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Building bridges to unite Christians and Muslims in Iraq

KIRKUK (AsiaNews): The Chaldean diocese of Kirkuk, northern Iraq, organised a reconciliation forum on April 25 on Building Bridges of Peace.

An initiative of Archbishop Louis Sako, the meeting brought together some 50 Christian and Muslim leaders, as well as politicians, including the provincial governor, members of councils, party chiefs and tribal sheiks; religious leaders from the Shia, Sunni and Christian communities; and representatives of the Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Assyrian-Chaldean communities.

The forum comes a few days after a series of attacks left a trail of blood and destruction in Kirkuk and other parts of the country. 

Despite the departure of troops from the United States of America, the situation has not improved and peace and security remain as elusive as ever.

Church officials in Kirkuk described the meeting as an opportunity for all parties to sit around a table to talk in a civilised manner. “This way, they can try to solve problems and bridge divisions,” one said, “thus reducing tensions rather than make it worse with threats.”

Archbishop Sako presented a seven-point proposal that participants signed, as a joint commitment to dialogue and peace. An ad hoc committee made up of individuals from various backgrounds will be set up to evaluate its application, principles and directives.

The archbishop reiterated the principle of dialogue with Islam so that people can live together and overcome theological issues that today are unsolvable.

“For Christians, this means adopting a language that can be understood by the Muslim community,” he stressed, while at the same time describing “a secular civil society as necessarily based on shared Iraqi citizenship.”

A number of plans are on the drawing board to achieve these goals. They include a kindergarten for 80 children, at least 10 per cent of whom must be Muslim, and an elementary school that should open in September on a similar basis.

As those behind these initiatives note, coexistence begins in infancy.

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