Iraqi Cardinal Calls for Rejection of Fundamentalism ‘in All Its Forms’

In this Monday, Dec. 18, 2017 photo, Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean Patriarch speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq. The head of Iraq’s Chaldean Church says that battling extremist “mentality” is key to peaceful coexistence among Iraq’s religious and ethnic groups as the nation emerges from …
AP/Khalid Mohammed

ROME — Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako has called for the rejection of every form of fundamentalism, insisting it is a “dangerous ideology.”

“Fundamentalism is not originality, that is, a return to the excellent roots,” Cardinal Sako said in an online statement Monday. “Fundamentalism means fanaticism and extremism, and it has become a dangerous ideology.”

“Fundamentalism often uses religion as a cover to gain political and financial interests,” Sako continued. “Fundamentalism believes in one color, rejects pluralism, and incites to abolish the other.”

In his statement, the cardinal also said true Iraqis are not fundamentalists, since this way of being is foreign to the nation’s tradition.

“Fundamentalism is alien to the nature of Iraqis and their civilization, which is characterized by pluralism and the respectful acceptance of others,” Sako said. “Therefore, it must be dismantled through the enlightenment of the tolerant religious message.”

Pope Francis elevated Patriarch Sako to the rank of cardinal in 2018, in recognition of his leadership of the Catholic Church in Iraq throughout its long ordeal at the hands of the Islamic State terror group.

Sako made headlines last April when he called for the transformation of Iraq’s political regime to a non-confessional or secular state, separating religion from government “as the Christian West has done for a long time.”

“A civil or secular state is not hostile to religion and respects all faiths, but does not include it in politics,” Sako said, proposing that Iraq adopt a model “that guarantees freedom of religion and worship for all Iraqis equally and protects the human rights contained in all international treaties.”

All Iraqis, “by principle and by constitution, are fully citizens with the same rights and duties,” he said. “Citizenship cannot be limited to religion, creed, region, race, or number. Citizenship is a universal right for all.”

“I think the only future for countries in the Middle East is to set up a secular regime, and to respect religion,” Sako later said during a virtual panel discussion titled, “The Future of Christianity in the Middle East.”

What we need is an end to “this mentality that Christians are infidels,” Sako said, “this mentality of sectarianism, and this bad mentality of a lack of respect for non-Muslims.”

“We are one nation, and we are not divided,” he said, adding, “If I have some particularism, that doesn’t mean I am not Iraqi or that I am someone outside.”

“Every individual can follow his own religion and traditions,” he continued, “provided that he respects the religion of his brother, not treating him as a non-believer, or betraying him, or excluding or eliminating him. Such diversity flows from the will of God.”

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