“Perhaps it is now necessary, before it is too late, to think and plan a unified Christian strategy.” This is the appeal that the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch made to the faithful of Iraq and the diaspora at Christmas.
Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako took advantage of the Christmas holidays to campaign for the first time for the creation of a unified Christian party, with the aim of having more influence on the politics of the country.
“More than one observer believes that there is an excellent opportunity for Christians to think of forming a single political alliance that includes all parties,” the Cardinal stated. And to recall that, among Iraqi Christians, there are eminent personalities, whether in the world of law, politics, sociology, economics, or the media.
For this reason, it is important to him to avoid dispersing powers and “dividing Christians into different factions,” each of which wants to prevail over the other.
The context is indeed worrying for the Christian minority in Iraq: massive emigration—due to persecution from Sunnis of the Islamic State (IS) organization or from the Shiites of pro-Iranian militias—marginalization in the workplace, weakening of political representation, and demographic challenges in the face of growing Muslim populations.
Not to mention the explosive political situation in the country: since the riots of October 1, 2019, Iraq has remained the scene of a vast protest movement against the government. The protests led to the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, but they have continued, serving as an outlet for the unrest of different communities.
Cardinal Sako specifies that the new party must clearly state its Christian identity and work in very specific directions. It will have to promote “to establish the rights of Christians in the constitution, covering personal status … and fix Christmas and Easter as holidays for all Iraqis, to favor education, especially the ‘curricula to consolidate national unity and properly incorporate our (Christian) heritage into it as part of the Iraqi national heritage,’ as well as demography, most notably the changing ‘demographics of our regions’ and the problem of land seizure, focusing ‘on the towns of the Nineveh Plain’ where ‘the future of Iraqi Christians’ will be determined,” limiting emigration, encouraging the return of expatriate Christians, and developing “independent media and institutions at home and abroad.”
The patriarch concludes, “On our part as a Church, we are ready to support the achievement of such a comprehensive meeting if there are a sincere will and serious or sober people willing to hold it.”