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

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14 ESV)

Saint Nicholas of Myra

The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock, * as a rule of faith, an image of meekness, and a teacher of abstinence. * Therefore, you attained the heights through humility, * and riches through poverty. * O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, * pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved. (Troparion, Tone 4)

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

In Myra, You were shown to be a servant of the sacred things, O Holy Nicholas, * for, fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, you, O Venerable, laid down your life for your people, * and saved the innocent from death. * Therefore, you were sanctified as a great initiate of the grace of God. (Kontakion, Tone 3)

Random Proverb

"My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge." (Proverbs 5:1,2 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

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

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

"In the matter of piety, poverty serves us better than wealth, and work better than idleness, especially since wealth becomes an obstacle even for those who do not devote themselves to it. Yet, when we must put aside our wrath, quench our envy, soften our anger, offer our prayers, and show a disposition which is reasonable, mild, kindly, and loving, how could poverty stand in our way? For we accomplish these things not by spending money but by making the correct choice. Almsgiving above all else requires money, but even this shines with a brighter luster when the alms are given from our poverty. The widow who paid in the two mites was poorer than any human, but she outdid them all."

St. John Chrysostom