WÃ¼rzburg — "Aid to the Church in Need" organised a world conference titled "Welt Kirche in WÃ¼rzburg", in Germany on 18-20 March 2011,
on the situation of Christians in Muslim counties. Many bishops from Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq and Nigeria and elsewhere took part in the event. Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, was among them. He expressed serious concerns about how ‘Jasmine Revolutions’ were developing in many countries of North Africa and the Middle East.
The Chaldean prelate saw few signs of optimism in the events now unfolding in Arab countries, like mass protests and popular unrest, which have front-page in newscasts, newspapers, magazines and websites. The sight of crowds praying or shouting slogans gives the impression of a wave of extremism.
Media are always talking about Islamic parties. Many Muslims want an Islamic state. After the collapse of regime that lacked a direction and vision, questions abound. Will things improve? Will there be security? Who comes next? Who is pushing these masses of young people? Who is funding the movement? I hope things will evolved differently in Iraq.
The bishop described the situation in Iraq, where for the past eight years, "we have lived with different kinds of oppression. Establishing freedom and democracy takes time and education, especially a separation between politics, which is based on interests, and religion, which is based on ideals that cannot be compromised."
"Democracy cannot function if Islam is not updated. We must work together for a civilian state in which the only criterion is citizenship," he said.
"In Iraq, the post-Saddam government, and the people, have proclaimed democracy, but democracy cannot be imposed by pushing a magic button. Eight years after the US invasion, we do not have democracy in Iraq. Indeed, we have groups fighting each. Instead of democracy, we have a growing sectarian problem, with expulsions, abductions and attacks."
"We Christians are at a disadvantage, socially and religiously discriminated. More than half of the country’s Christians have left, but others are leaving as well. The exodus is never-ending. If Islamisation continues, there will be no Christians left. A million Christians used to live here; now 400,000 are left. Christians certainly respect Muslims, but Muslims must also recognise Christians are real citizens, not as second-class citizens. There must be a clear and courageous decision by the state, as well as Muslim authorities."
In fact, Mgr Sako issued an appeal to Muslim authorities. "It is necessary," he said, "that Muslim religious leaders get involved in dialogue to build a multicultural and multi-religious society and reduce inter-religious tensions and conflicts so as to build true coexistence. Sectarian and provocative speeches do not help humanity’s development and are contrary to the universal religious message of ‘Peace on earth’."
"We must work together for a civilian state in which the only criterion is citizenship. The government, police, army, courts and all institutions should uphold the law and maintain order among all citizens."