Members of both religions meet in Baghdad church to acclaim "There is no Iraq without Christians."
In a tragic moment for Iraq, scene of a bloody conflict that could lead to its partition as the advance by the forces of the Islamic Caliphate is undermining the nature of the country, Christians and Muslims came together to pray for peace.
With the slogan "There is no Iraq without Christians," St. George Church in Baghdad hosted a meeting last night, on the eve of the feast of the Transfiguration and the World Day of Prayer for Iraq.
Muslim civil society leaders, officials from Baghdad and neighboring cities, Christian leaders and ordinary believers gathered in the church to pray for peace and revive the desire for "unity and solidarity" in the country.
A special prayer was also said for the Christians of Mosul, the first victims of the advancing militia of the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, ISIS), which set up a Caliphate and imposed its rigid interpretation of Sharia.
Participants waved Iraqi flags, lit candles and sang hymns of peace. They showed their support for Christians living a moment of great difficulty, as the Chaldean Patriarch pointed out yesterday in a letter addressed to Pope Francis.
Mar Raphael I Louis Sako, who took part in the joint prayer, stressed the profound "shock about what is happening in the country."
Patriarch Sako added that in Mosul people "have been uprooted" from their ancestral land, "robbed and humiliated because of their Christian faith."
He also mentioned the Sinjar massacre in which 70 Yazidi men were killed and a number of women were captured.
For the patriarch of Baghdad, acts such as these "could happen 2000 years ago, but not today" because they "do not belong to our ethics and our traditions."
For this reason, he invited those present, without distinction of religion, to "stand as one" to "save the country and protect the lives of innocent people."
Patriarch Sako noted that Iraq is going through a crucial phase in its life and history, that "solidarity at the national, regional and international levels" is increasingly necessary to stop the conflict, the killing, and the flight of innocent civilians.
He also called for a stronger "logic of dialogue," the only way for a true resolution of the crisis in a logic of "solidarity, trust and hope."
"We need actions and clear and strong fatwas condemning what is happening," he said as he addressed Muslim leaders directly.
At the end of the service, those present gathered in the church square. Waving Iraqi flags, they denounced the logic of division based on race, ethnicity or religious belief.
"We are all for Iraq our homeland and Iraq is for all," Muslims and Christians said in unison.
Separately, an Iraqi army airstrike in the militant-held northern city of Mosul on Wednesday killed 60 fighters from the extremists Islamic State group, the Associated Press reported, based on an Iraq state television report. The claim could not be independently verified and the area was inaccessible to most media. According to the report, which cited unnamed intelligence officials, the dawn strike targeted a downtown Mosul prison that was being used by Islamic State members as a religious court and detention facility.
Iraqi government forces and allied Sunni tribal militiamen have been struggling to dislodge the militants from the area they captured, but with no apparent progress.
Reprinted from Asia News.