Tackling Violence Committed in the Name of Religion

Wednesday 31 January – Friday 2 February 2018

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako

Offering Gratitude

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.

Introduction

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:

Scripture

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.

Politics

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.

Some Solutions

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.


Teachings of Christ

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44 ESV)

Theophany

When You were baptized in the Jordan, O Lord, * worship of the Trinity was revealed, * for the Father's voice bore witness to You, calling You His “beloved Son”, * and the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the certainty of these words. * O Christ God, * Who appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You! (Troparion, Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You have appeared to the whole world today, * and Your light, O Lord, is signed upon us, * who with knowledge praise You in song: * "You have come, and You have appeared, O Unapproachable Light." (Kontakion, Tone 4)

Theophany is a Greek word meaning "manifestation or appearence of God".

Random Proverb

"Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her." (Proverbs 8:10,11 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

We ought to learn the virtues through practicing them, not merely through talking about them, so that by acquiring the habit of them we do not forget what is of benefit to us. 'The kingdom of God', St. Paul says, 'resides not in words but in power' (I Cor. 4:20). For he who tries to discover things through actual practice will come to understand what gain or loss lies in any activity that he pursues..."

St. Peter of Damaskos (Book 1:A Treasury of Divine Knowledge, The Philokalia Vol. 3 pg. 183)