ZENIT News Agency, The World Seen from Rome
Religious Freedom Is Solution for Iraq, Prelate Says
Proposed Division of Boundaries Concerns Kirkuk Archbishop
KIRKUK, Iraq, JAN. 18, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Worried over the increasingly complicated
situation in Iraq, the archbishop of Kirkuk warns that a division of boundaries
will lead to more conflict, with Christians caught in the middle.
AsiaNews reported on Tuedsay an interview with Chaldean Archbishop Louis
Sako, who says that a divided Iraq will not be a peaceful Iraq.
The archbishop said that granting religious freedom, however, would be a
"Internet sites and papers are already publishing the new political maps
with the Kurdish north, the Shiite south and the Sunni center," he said.
"Things are going from bad to worse and the population is living in fear
and uncertainty, not knowing where they will live."
The archbishop says he believes this will have serious consequences also
for neighboring countries, "where the local Kurdish population is demanding
autonomy or independence, but where local governments are opposed. The division
of Iraq is not a solution, and will not bring peace and stability."
Power without peace
According to the prelate, the current government does not ensure peace. "For
Sunnis, Shiite Iran is the main cause of their marginalization and for what
is happening in Iraq," he said. "Shiites have taken power, but the current
government has failed to achieve the desired reconciliation or to ensure
Archbishop Sako also considers a false solution the proposed upcoming referendum,
which could result in Kirkuk joining either Kurdistan or a Sunni province:
"Huge interests and dangerous tensions gravitate around Kirkuk. The city
is not homogeneous, nor ethnically uniform. Residents are Muslim, Christian,
Kakai, Kurdish, Arab, Turkish, Chaldeans, Assyrians and Armenians. Will it
be an independent political and administrative entity? Annexed by Kurdistan?
Or by the neighboring Sunni province?"
The referendum is considered a difficult proposal in a climate of violence,
which has resulted in many people leaving their homes for safer places to
Perhaps most uncertain is the future of Christians in the majority Muslim
country. Archbishop Sako fears that possible plans for a Christian safe haven
on the Nineveh plain will not succeed.
He said: "They would have their own territory, but to be viable, the idea
of a protected zone, a safe haven, which is viewed sympathetically by the
Kurds and even the Americans, needs an end to the violence and remains in
any event, a dangerous plan.
"The Nineveh plain is largely surrounded by Arabs, and Christians would serve
as a useful and undefended buffer zone between Arabs and Kurds."
According to the archbishop the best solution is religious freedom: "In my
opinion it would be preferable to work at the constitutional level and each
area to guarantee religious freedom and equal rights for believers of all
faiths throughout the land, including Christians, who can be found everywhere."