Munich (Agenzia Fides) - The 55th International non-governmental Conference on Security, held in Munich from 15 to 17 February, also hosted a qualified representation of Middle Eastern Churches: Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, together with Mor Ignatios Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch. They had the opportunity to participate in many bilateral meetings with political representatives of different countries, and talk about the condition of religious communities in the Middle East, organized on 16 February by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.
Patriarch Sako, in his speech, recalled the long-term causes that contributed in the last century to making the condition of the Middle Eastern autochthonous Christian communities more precarious. The Primate of the Chaldean Church, created cardinal by Pope Francis, recalled that since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire the occupying Western powers did not show any intention to favor the creation of rules of Law in the Middle East. The Patriarch referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - as a historical factor that contributed to nurturing political Islam - and to the prejudice (dating back to historical events far away in time, such as the Crusades) which labels Middle Eastern Christians as "allies" of the Western policies and powers in the Middle East.
Referring to the specific situation in Iraq, Patriarch Sako repeated that Iraqis has experienced a real chaos since the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein (2003), which has caused a situation of political-institutional emptiness where the plagues of sectarianism, corruption and the multiplication of militias and armed groups outside the control of state authority have increased. "The instability in the Middle East", the Chaldean Patriarch remarked, "has contributed to the dilemma of Christians, because of 'Western politics' that encourages conflict in this region rather than promoting democracy and freedom. In other words - the Patriarch added - the Western 'decision makers' have done everything possible to promote their economy and serve their interests to the detriment of our Countries. For example, controlling oil and other natural resources, as well as selling arms for both sides of the conflict". With regard to the Nineveh Plain, and the hopeless return of the Christian populations who fled from that area during the years of occupation by the Islamic State jihadists (Daesh), the Primate of the Chaldean Church remarked that the Iraqi government did not do anything to help internally displaced people return to their homes, partly because of corrupt practices that prompt some to ask for money for the restoration of homes and churches destroyed during the conflict. "We have suffered enough", said the Chaldean Patriarch, stressing that Middle Eastern Countries can only come out from the current crisis if the equality of rights for every citizen are recognized, if school programs are amended from any incitement to discrimination, and if one aims to eliminate "the ideology of Jihad in Islam or of the Holy War in Christianity and other religions".
Cardinal Sako also hopes that the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates and the publication of the document on human Fraternity signed by him together with the Great Imam of al Azhar may contribute to the disappearance of the causes of religious fanaticism.
Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Mor Ignatios Aphrem II, in his speech on the situation in Syria, recalled the two Archbishops of Aleppo - Greek Orthodox Boulos Yazigi and Syrian Orthodox Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim - who disappeared during the conflict in April 2013, and complained about the absence of representatives of the Syrian government among the guests at the summit on security. The Primate of the Syriac Orthodox Church underlined that in the current phase, the suffering of the Syrian population called to grips with a Country devastated by the conflict is exacerbated by the policy of international sanctions imposed by some countries against Syria.
The international conference saw the participation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel (applauded, at the end of her speech, by the audience of about 450 participants), the US Vice-President Mike Pence and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergej Lavrov. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 18/2/2019)