Tackling Violence Committed in the Name of Religion
Wednesday 31 January – Friday 2 February 2018
Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako
Thank you for your concern in organizing this Conference about Tackling Violence Committed in the Name of Religion. It is a pleasure to be here, promoting peace and dignity for humankind regardless of religion and nationality.
In general, the core of the religious “message” is to call people for worshiping God; cooperating among them; protecting nature; achieving peace and security. However, it is a pity that all religions have used some forms of violence during the history.
Interfaith conflict is a scandal. It is a crime that people are persecuted because of their faith, as it happened in Iraq (100 churches have been attacked, burnt or destroyed since 2003 but also many mosques). The same thing happened, in Syria, Egypt, Nigeria, and against Muslims of (Rohingya) in Myanmar, and other countries around the world.
If different religions have a sincere dialogue to understand the importance of the spiritual dimensions of religions, such as the urge to obey God, respect humankind and environment. They will definitely bring peace to the world.
Two Major Factors are contributing to Religious Violence:
Major problem in religion is when we interpret the scripture literally. Religious authorities should look for an exegesis and an update in order to move from the “rigid letter” to the appropriate meaning that allows us to understand the “message” properly and apply it on our daily life. Saint Paul in the second Epistle to the Corinthians says: "for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life" (3/6).
As we are living in a different age compared to the religious era, new concerns and values are emerging on the surface, such as freedom, human rights, women issues, democracy, secularism, justice, equality etc. Hence, there is a genuine need to look at the reality and do what suits the lives of people without sacrificing their doctrine and moral values. The Church realized that and made a big progress.
The use of religion in political matters and personal interests is distorting it.
1. Since Crusades, the Arab world has linked the loyalty of Middle – Eastern Christians to the West. This confusion is so common, that it is very hard to be removed from their minds.
2. The Israeli – Palestinian conflict is also creating tension. The Arab world believes that the west is supporting Israel against Palestinians. This mentality motivated political Islam to take over this region, using violence.
Countering extremism and terrorism, religious authorities should work together to develop an effective strategy that responds to challenges of current and future times to achieve peace.
No matter how discouraging are the chances, we are firmly convinced, that the future is promising due to our persistence in strengthening life's respect and promoting peace by:
1. Assuring that Governments are applying the established charter of human rights for all citizens, and avoid creating “second-class citizenship”. Especially that Christians and other minorities are facing thousands of problems on daily basis caused by constitution and the sectarian culture. So, it is necessary to get rid of certain laws that treats Christians as 2nd class citizens.
2. Reforming the Constitutions and laws in order to respect life, promote peace and stability.
3. Granting equal citizenship to all people, away from religious preference. It does not matter I am Christian or Muslim. The main thing is, I am an Iraqi citizen and I have the right to live in freedom and dignity.
4. Updating religious national education programs, as well as helping other religious and ethnic communities to avoid the re-emerging of extremists and terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda and ISIS.
5. Promoting humanitarian and national participation to endorse a spirit of tolerance, affection and respect for the right of religious and intellectual pluralism.
6. Eliminating the ideology of jihad in Islam or holy war in Christianity and other religions, since every country has an army and police to protect citizens and defend the homeland.
7. Preserving the Christian patrimony. Especially that there are churches and monasteries since the 5th century standing as a living witness of Christianity on this land.
In conclusion, I believe that our mission as Christians and Muslims in the Middle East is to educate our people how to achieve peace, mainly by living together in harmony. It may take time, but we won’t give up.