The Chaldean Archbishopric of Kirkuk, northern Iraq, organised a reconciliation forum today on "Building bridges of peace", on the initiative of Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of the city. The meeting brought together Christian and Muslims leaders, altogether some 50 people, including politicians like the provincial governor, lawmakers, party chiefs and tribal sheiks; religious leaders from the Shia, Sunni and Christian communities; and representatives of the Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Assyrian-Chaldean communities.
The forum comes a few days after a series of attacks left a trail of blood and destruction in Kirkuk as well as the rest of the country. Despite the departure of US troops, the situation has not improved and peace and security remain as elusive as ever.
Today's meeting is "an opportunity for all parties" to sit around a table to talk "in a civilised manner", Church sources in Kirkuk said. This way they can try to solve problems and bridge divisions, thus "reducing tensions rather than make it worse with threats."
Among the various speeches and interventions, Mgr Sako presented a seven-point proposal that participants signed as a joint "commitment" to dialogue and peace. An ad hoc committee made up of individuals from various backgrounds will be set up to evaluate the application of its principles and directives.
In his address, Mgr Sako reiterated the principle of dialogue with Islam so that people can live together and overcome theological issues that today are unsolvable.
For Christians, this means adopting a language that can be "understood" by the Muslim community. At the same time, a "secular civil society" is necessary based on "shared Iraqi citizenship."
A number of plans are on the drawing board to achieve these goals. They include a kindergarten for 80 children (10 per cent Muslim) and an elementary school that should open in September.