Officials release statement on a number of issues

Iraqi church leaders cancel Christmas celebrations in solidarity with Palestinians

ERBIL, November 29 — The heads of Iraq’s Christian churches announced on Tuesday their communities would cancel festive celebrations for Christmas and New Year in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The leaders gathered in Ainkawa at the invitation of Cardinal Louis Sako, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, and issued a statement addressing their collective stance on holiday festivities, as well as provincial elections, the security situation in the Nineveh Plains, and a dispute with the President regarding the withdrawal of an ecclesiastical decree.

The statement from the church officials said:

At the invitation of His Beatitude Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, several heads of churches in Iraq held an extraordinary meeting on the morning of Tuesday, November 28, 2023, at the Chaldean Patriarchate in Ainkawa – Erbil.

At the beginning of the meeting, the participants observed a minute of silence to pray for the souls of the victims of the Qaraqosh massacre and the devastating war between Israel and Palestine.

During the meeting, the attendees discussed the prepared agenda, and in conclusion, they issued the following statement:

Christians are not a minority in their homeland; they are deeply rooted in Iraq before and after Christianity. Their presence is continuous. Christians have played a rooted role in the history of Iraq, the land of Mesopotamia, the land of ‘beginnings’ and the earliest civilizations. They constitute an essential part of its cultural, social, and national heritage. By nature and belief, Christians are peaceful, inclined towards love and mercy rather than violence and revenge. Despite this, they have faced pressures, attacks, and attempts to seize their homes and properties, leading many of their well-off members to emigrate to safeguard their lives and the future of their children.

What we fear now is the state’s continued failure to take serious measures to preserve the rights of Christians, provide justice, and return their confiscated properties. We have repeatedly requested the transfer of security responsibility in these towns to the federal police, but no one responds to our request.

From this platform, we call on Christians to uphold their identity and play their national role by engaging in the political process and state institutions professionally and sincerely, serving their country. We rely on a deeper understanding of the message of Christ, the message of brotherhood, love, harmonious coexistence, and commitment to it in both words and deeds. This enables them to continue their relationship with their homeland and fellow citizens, enhancing harmony, solidarity, and cooperation in building a state of citizenship, a flourishing state that promotes the concept of one family, encompassing Christians, Muslims, and others.

On our part, as shepherds of the Church, we are determined to continue our spiritual, moral, and national mission. We express our solidarity with you, supporting and defending your rights and dignity.

We ask God to bless Iraqi officials with the grace of wisdom and courage to combat corruption, end sectarian quotas, restrict arms to constitutional legitimate forces, fortify the army and police, strengthen state institutions for the stability and progress of the country, safeguard citizens’ rights, and ensure their lives with freedom, prosperity, and dignity.

Qaraqosh Al-Hamdaniya Tragedy

We strongly condemn the heinous massacre that befell the residents of Qaraqosh Al-Hamdaniya on September 26, 2023, which shocked and pained us, claiming the lives of more than 133 people and leaving several injured. We demand that the Iraqi government conduct a serious investigation to determine the perpetrators of the incident and hold them accountable.

Withdrawal of Decrees

We categorically reject the withdrawal of decrees from Christian religious leaders. This tradition has been in place since the Abbasids and continues to be practiced in Arab countries where churches exist. These decrees are essential as they recognize the head of each church and his authority over its endowments.

War in the Holy Land

We strongly denounce the destructive war unfolding in the Holy Land, which has reached the point of committing massacres against humanity in violation of international and humanitarian law. We hope the scope of conflicts does not expand to include our countries.

We call on all those with living consciences to demand a complete cessation of military operations and work towards achieving a two-state solution, which is a national, human, Arab, and international necessity. Ending this historical conflict prevents the inflaming of hatred and animosity among the people of the region.

Provincial Council Elections

The Church does not intervene in the matter of provincial council elections due to a clear absence of their relevance.

Debts of Religious Endowments for Christian, Yazidi, and Mandaean Religions

We propose a restructuring of the endowment law by forming a joint committee of religions and the government.

Cancellation of Christmas and New Year Celebrations

We declare the limitation of celebrations to prayers and church rituals, out of respect for the victims of Qaraqosh and the Holy Land. Therefore, we will be unable to accept greetings and receive officials in churches.

In conclusion, the participants expressed gratitude to God, who accompanied them in their meeting, supplicating to Him to spread His peace over Iraq and the region.

Lord of Peace, grant our countries peace.