IF Presents at Council of Representatives Hearing

 

On March 15th, 2015 the Iraq Foundation’s Suhaila al-Assadi presented a statement during a hearing of the Council of Representative’s Committee for Religious Endowments and Religious Affairs on the topic “Moderation and Tolerance As Our Pathway to Stability and Security.” Consistent with the Foundation’s commitment to pluralism, inclusiveness, and celebration of diversity, Ms. Assadi’s statement calls for a return to the peaceful coexistence of Iraq’s past in order to combat the negative effects of the spread of violence and the rising influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. IF was one of only a few NGOs to be invited to give a statement. The following is a summary of Ms. Assadi’s statement.

Interfaith Coexistence

The Iraq Foundation (IF) thanks the Committee on Endowments for its decision to hold a hearing on the subject of peaceful coexistence and for inviting us to speak at the hearing. We hope that this meeting provides practical results and decisions that achieve progress towards a true rapprochement among religions. We value the role of the Council of Representatives (CoR) as a respected and honest mediator in reconciling differences and resolving disagreements through dialogue among people from different cultures and religions. We hope the CoR’s efforts will continue to strengthen Iraq. May God bless your steps and bring you success.

I am delighted to discuss a highly important theme regarding the unity of the Iraqi people and to highlight the moderate and real vision of Islam and other monotheistic religions, all of which teach tolerance and acceptance of others. We believe that interaction between members of differing religions is necessary. All religions are enriched by a level of interaction, exchange, and harmony with others; a religion cannot exist in isolation from the contextual effects of culture, environment, time, and history.

Iraq is the homeland of the most ancient civilizations, and diverse populations have lived and settled on its land. These populations participated in building Iraq’s civilization and establishing its successive states and identity. Specific circumstances, religious, educational, linguistic, and demographic, have helped to create a diverse society in Iraq including: Arabs; Kurds; Turkmen; Christians; Mandeans; Yazidis; Shabak, and others all of whom participated in creating the social and cultural heritage of Iraq. The historical record shows harmony and coexistence among the members of earlier Iraqi society, with peaceful community relations and mutual respect between religious and ethnic groups. In addition, from the earliest of times, our history shows active participation of outstanding individuals from all religions and ethnicities in building the state and strengthening academic, financial, and cultural institutions. Socially, Iraqis from different religions have participated in the religious celebrations of different groups in order to congratulate their neighbors; Iraqis also visit the shrines of other religious groups and sects. In fact, many shrines are common to several religions.

Iraqis accept this diversity because they strongly believe that all these religions were revealed by God’s prophets and beloved ones, and they believe that all of these prophets have spiritual and holy status. People from different religions are used to presenting vows at the shrines of other religious groups. This is because Iraqis believe that we are one people, encompassing all its members and constituents. However, today, the escalating level of violence and the deteriorating security situation represent the greatest threat facing Iraqis from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. It is necessary to reaffirm Iraq’s cultural

history of social and religious tolerance, and continue forwards in the direction of rationality, coexistence, and tolerance. By taking measures that call for reviewing our attitudes towards other Iraqis, we can ensure a return to logical thinking characterized by tolerance and coexistence in peace and security. At the same time, this will prevent the tarnishing of religions and ethnicities in a society that that includes multiple sects and ethnicities. The following points aim to support this objective:

• Commitment to the constitution

The Iraqi constitution provides the legal framework for the development of legislation against discrimination. Article 14 states that all Iraqis are equal before the law without discrimination, and Article 16 states that the state shall ensure equal opportunities for all Iraqis. Article 125 guarantees the administrative, political, cultural and educational rights of the various ethnicities, and Article 2 (c) prevents any legislation inconsistent with the rights enshrined in the constitution. Therefore, it is the duty of the legislature to enact legislation which ensures respect for, and implementation of, these provisions.

• Commitment to a unified position.

Progress must be made towards the unification of religious discourse which calls for rapprochement and coexistence between members of the different communities in one society.
We urgently need to frame a code of honor that will be adopted by various sects and religions which emphasizes maintaining the unity of the national fabric, renouncing extremism, denouncing sectarian rhetoric, and fostering a spirit of tolerance

• Adopting open dialogue and building bridges of trust
We must intensify efforts to establish communications and dialogue between religious leaders. These efforts should include a code of honor in order to assist in finding solutions, exchanging ideas, unifying shared visions, and addressing misunderstandings resulting from a lack of communication.

• Encouraging the role of civil society organizations in the promotion of a culture of coexistence between religions
The role of civil and international organizations in strengthening and promoting dialogue, coexistence, and identifying the roots of discord between groups must be strengthened.

• Rejecting exclusion and marginalization

All monotheistic religions call for peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding between different races and cultures without exclusion for sectarian or ethnic affiliation, to achieve peace and trust in society. Additionally, they call for the adoption of dialogue that leads to increased unity of humanity. We need to promote inclusion as part of our value system through education, culture, and the media to root it in society.

Comments are closed.