A refugee camp in KurdistanIn 2003, the Americans came to Iraq under the pretense of liberating the country from tyranny and promoting democracy, pluralism, freedom and stability. Ultimately, the result was the opposite of the original intention. A new culture emerged, one that is alien to our societies: the culture of religious and ethnic sectarianism. The result of this was fighting, struggles, the cleansing of cities and regions on ethnic and sectarian grounds, showdowns and violations of human dignity. This fostered the rise of Takfiri terrorist organisations such as ISIS, with their terrifying barbarism. It is as if all this was intended to put an end to the social, religious, ethnic and cultural plurality in Iraq and the whole region. This situation of unbridled anarchy has claimed and continues to claim thousands of lives and injuries, and has left behind it three million displaced persons, semi-destroyed infrastructure, unemployment, poverty and illiteracy.
Takfiri and terrorist culture has lengthened its shadow over Christians and other religious minorities, who have been targets of extremists. Christians in Mosul and in the plain of Nineveh have been abducted, killed and forced to emigrate, while their churches have been destroyed. The “denominational division” has marginalised them politically, and they have felt discriminated against, unwanted and treated as second class citizens. They have therefore sought refuge in neighbouring countries, in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and, from there they have headed west to protect their lives and the future of themselves and their children.
Minorities in Iraq and in the region are wondering what will become of their future and their fate, of their houses and their property, of their cities and their villages. Will these native citizens one day be able to return to their historic lands? Will their houses and shops, violated by organised groups, be rebuilt? Will substantial reforms to the Constitution and legislation be passed to guarantee that they enjoy equality? Will the Iraqi government, the United States, and the international community do something to protect them and safeguard their rights? These crises should be addressed with realism and decision, and a secure and long-lasting solution should be found to Takfiri thought and terrorism, which has now become a global phenomenon capable of arousing terror everywhere.
Some Practical Proposals
We shall now illustrate some realistic and concrete proposals for real reform.
First, an international coalition must be formed with Arab and Muslim countries under a UN Mandate to take serious military action aimed at liberating the areas occupied by terrorist groups and restoring political and economic stability, security, and good neighbourly relations. It is a moral responsibility incumbent on countries that have created this chaos, which is far from being “creative”!
Once the occupied cities have been liberated, the displaced should be provided with international protection so that they can return to their homes and live in security, freedom and dignity.
At this point, it would be right to compensate the victims for the damages they have suffered, to rebuild their homes, schools, churches and monasteries, and to ensure their full rights.
Then, political and financial reforms will be required to establish a civil system based on the principle of citizenship, coexistence and equality among members of society; that respects international conventions on human rights, and involves all the members of the Iraqi society in the political process with no discrimination. The strength of a country is in its unity and in its citizens’ attachment to their land and their identity.
No less important are reforms to the judiciary, particularly concerning the personal status of non-Muslim citizens and the situation of minors with one parent converted to Islam. Freedom of conscience and belief must be protected. Religion is a personal matter between God and the individual.
Muslims around the world must take responsibility for a terrorism that seeks to obtain power and money under the guise of religion. Religious leaders must not delay in deconstructing this Takfiri thought, which is a direct threat to Muslims, Christians and others. This can be done by promoting modern and open thought and religious education, solidly based on moderation, purified from the infernal ideas; that respects diversity, strengthens the bonds of brotherhood between citizens and spreads the culture of peace, tolerance and peaceful and social coexistence.
Eventually, it will be fundamental to enact a law that guarantees respect for all religions and punishes those who commit acts that offend religion and sacred things, the forms of discrimination, and incitement to hatred and division, following the recent example of the United Arab Emirates.
Christians and other minorities are peaceful people and loyal citizens who have significantly contributed to constructing the civilisation and culture of their countries, and deserve to be appreciated for this. We hope that these countries will not be deprived of Christians and other native minorities.
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