The Chaldean patriarch reminds the Muslims of Iraq that the Christians were there before them, yet are facing marginalisation, rejection and incitement. Watch this MEMRI video (With thanks: Lily):
Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church of Babylon, called upon Muslims to stop discrimination against minority groups, which, he said, leads to marginalization. Speaking on the Iraqi Dijlah TV channel on June 16, he said that just as the Christians had historically welcomed the Muslims, “who came from the desert,” into their schools, monasteries, churches, and hospitals, more emphasis now had to be placed on coexistence and respect, “regardless of skin color, faith, and language.”
Louis Raphael I Sako: “Notions [like calling Christians ‘infidels’] are old and should not be used today. The Christians must not employ the medieval notions of the Crusades, and contemporary Muslims must not employ the notions of those times. For example, the notion of dhimmis was very positive and civilized back then. The soldiers who would go to fight were Muslims, and the Christians would pay the jizya poll tax in support of the war effort. But today, the Christians serve in the army and in the police. So the notion of dhimmis must be abandoned and, thank God, it has been.
Besides, how could you possibly know what I believe in? Do not rely on circumstantial matters alone. We need a new understanding of the religious texts. Our Muslim brothers believe that these texts are the words of Allah, and I respect that. But the text should be understood through a profound and realistic reading, which would appeal to people and not incite strife. In addition, at a certain period in the past, the Jews and the Christians might have constituted a threat to Muslims. There is such an opinion.
But today, half a million peaceful Christians, who sacrificed so much for Iraq throughout history, are considered infidels and are targeted, and there is pressure on them to convert to Islam, to pay the jizya, or to be killed. This is a disgrace! Naturally, this distorts the image of Islam and deepens Islamophobia. This distorts the image of Islam in the eyes of all Westerners. Where is this going?
Look at what is happening on TV channels and the radio. [Muslim preachers say:] ‘Allah, curse the Christians, the Jews, and the Sabeans!’ ‘Turn their wives into widows!’ ‘Turn their children into orphans!’ What is this?! You are supposed to pray for everybody. They also say: ‘Allah, protect the nation of Islam, the nation of Muhammad!’ Why? We are all Iraqis. We never pray for the Christians only. We pray for all Iraqis, for all mankind. This kind of discrimination makes you feel marginalized and unwanted. In diplomacy they call it persona non grata.
But this is my country, my land. I was here before you. We (Christians) welcomed the (Muslims) in our schools, our monasteries, our churches, and our hospitals throughout history. Bayt Al-Hikma, the doctors in the palaces of the Caliphs… Who used to treat and cure the (Caliphs)? Who was the educated class? The Christians. The (Muslims) came from the desert. Today, there is a need for change. More emphasis should be placed on coexistence, and respect for every human being. Regardless of skin color, faith, and language, he is Iraqi.”