By H.B. Mar Meelis Zaia, A.M.
Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church of the East
Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon
A lot of ink has been spilled over our good land in the past, and still does today over the issue of addressing the presence of the Oriental Christians in their home land. As such, a less gloomy dream of tomorrow for Christians has become an even more difficult matter.
As a result of the relentless indulgence savoured by the terrorist’s in the bombing and mass murder of innocent spiritual devotees at the Church of Our Lady of Salvation, our people worldwide declared their condemnation of the abhorrent ritual and its corollary of accusing and killing Christians as “infidels”. They further deprecated the practice of hoarding this acrimony in private circles that shattered the society’s fraternal values and Iraqis’ national unity.
The ritual of slaughtering Christians as reprobation for being “infidels” is a clear and flagrant truth in the modus operandi of the terrorists persecuting our people. We have witnessed how the terrorists endorse the killing of Christians as “sacred duty” and a legitimate religious expression, delighting in the hideous mass murders at the Church of Our Lady of Salvation.
Discussions on eradicating terrorism through the application of security band-aids and a show of force, coiled temporarily around the churches and in Christian areas, seems incomplete unless fraternity ignorance is exposed and the “infidel-killing” ideologies disposed of. Security forces can reduce the level of terrorism around the churches and community centers, but the task of eradicating the incubators of terrorism can not be isolated and accomplished through military and security solutions alone
As individuals, confronting society’s inferior level of harmony and shattered national unity is every Iraqi citizen’s responsibility. Official force alone is not enough to face the arsenal of the “infidel-killing” ideology. The captivation of the “infidel” mania does not spawn overnight but is preceded early by various stages of nurturing intellectual fallacies and prejudices. Without instilling corrective values against them such as tolerance, brotherhood and coexistence in a multi- cultured society, we cannot reap the fruits of peace even if the banner of security protection is raised and imposed.
Community educational processes must exist for those more impressionable individuals deprived of coexistence awareness. When we nurture and build a peaceful individual and community frame of reference, society as a whole, will be prepared to take the required initiatives to confront, challenge and defy the deadly desecrating ideas that have devoured even the innocence of children. Given that the disguise of terrorism is religious, without the involvement of religious institutions, eradication efforts will be deemed unsuccessful. Religious leaders can play a crucial role in thwarting the proposals of instigators of hostility by pre-emptive purification of religious misconceptions and by bringing about the values of dialogue and religious tolerance. The religious treatment to this “trend” would be to strip the religious facade from the terrorists, who build their glory on sectarian hatred, and prevent diluting the religious values by these mercenaries of “infidel-killing” ideology.
The combat style of the killing violence is the offspring of verbal violence which was unleashed in private circles in a holy framework. This urged listeners for militancy, extremism and religiously justified the blood shedding of all that fell under the label “other”, whether Christian or Muslim.
Distancing and shielding of Christians or other persons from the term “House of War” is, first and foremost, the mission of the religious and humanitarian groups to save them from the fire of “infidel-killing” perpetrators, who find religious fulfilments in the killing of the different “other” the only way to divine satisfaction. The killings in the Church of Our Lady of Salvation were based on hatred and religious classification of Christians as “infidels” more than the defence principle of “detention of Muslim women in Coptic monasteries,” as claimed. The concealing motive of the perpetrators has been exposed in this murderous act that in their rational, the slaughter was a short cut for drawing closer to God.
What we want from each individual Muslim, everywhere, is to realize that the attack on Christians is an attack on himself, as it is a reflection on Islam. We did not forget, nor will we deny the consolations extended by the Muslims that were with us in the events of Our Lady of Salvation. But our security and peace does not depend and should not be limited to a serving of solace only. What transpired in the Church of Our Lady of Salvation was not an extreme act of terrorism. It was the ritual of ‘infidel-killing’ for those on the inside, and a blatant threat of deportation for those on the outside.
This matter is far greater than consolation of broken hearts and the issuance of denouncement letters and condemnations.
Addressing the above concerns requires the abolition of hatred and the dismantling of the talisman of extremisms to revive the ever lasting peace from its permanent setbacks. Iraq needs to stand accountable against those who glorify hatred and inspire extreme views in order to uncover deceiving practices. To guarantee the nation’s triumph, the government must storm into the sources and incubators of terrorism and flood the streams of ignorance of the “other” through educational and intellectual enlightenment and not by military force alone.
Hidden among the shelves of the libraries, worldwide, is the story of our ancestors’ faith, the greatness of our Christian history and, our greatest pride, the apostolic heritage of the Church of the East, also known as the Church of Kokheh. As a reflection of its spiritual and intellectual richness and enlightenment to its readers, the Assyrian Church of the East in Sydney issues its magazine; The Church of Beth Kokheh echoing the faithful message of the Church of the East.
From Kokheh, we went to all mankind.