2021 (EN)

The Pope's trip to Iraq was important for various reasons, both political and religious, but one of them stands out: having wrested the region from the resignation of conflicts and blood, terrorism and the law of interference by the strongest, 'impotence of diplomacy and law; all the more so at a time when the traumatic impact of the pandemic contributes to canceling the other crises of the contemporary world.
Francis, on the other hand, not only took a historic step in interreligious dialogue by meeting one of the greatest authorities of Shiite Islam, the great Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, but he reaffirmed the principles of equality between all the ethnic, social and religious components of the country on citizenship; on this path he was accompanied by Al Sistani himself who in a declaration wished to ensure his commitment so that "Christian citizens live like all Iraqis in peace and security, with all their constitutional rights".

Words that certainly will not have been appreciated by the theocracy of Tehran. On the other hand, the Declaration on human brotherhood signed in 2019 by the pope with the great imam Ahemed al Tayyeb, this time leader of Sunni Islam, had a similar effect on the rulers of Ankara, Riyadh or Cairo. It is no coincidence that Al Tayyeb expressed on Twitter his encouragement for the success of the trip to Iraq "of my brother the Pope". Even in that case, in fact, the issue of equality of citizens based on law (with the accompanying freedom to profess one's faith) was placed at the center of a broad plan of collaboration between peoples, cultures and faiths.
The great religious leaders of the Christian and Muslim world, therefore, went beyond a generic idea of ​​tolerance and protection of minorities, reduced to being weak subjects in their own countries, and tried to combine civil rights and religious freedom, spiritual vision and coexistence in the name of a peace that is not formal but practiced and lived. This is also why the pope’s meeting with the other half of the Islamic sky, the Shiite one, has been defined as historic by newspapers such as Le Monde and The Guardian.
On the other hand, these same themes were at the center of Francis’s first speech as soon as he arrived in Baghdad - where he was welcomed by President Barham Ahmed Salih Qassim - before the political and civil authorities of the country. "In recent years Iraq has tried to lay the foundations for a democratic society," the pope said. “In this sense, it is essential to ensure the participation of all political, social and religious groups and to guarantee the fundamental rights of all citizens. Nobody is considered a second-class citizen. I encourage the steps taken so far along this path and I hope they strengthen serenity and harmony ”.
If Najaf, a holy city for the Shiites, was the setting for the almost hour-long conversation between Francis and Al Sistani, another important step in the pope's trip to Iraq was that in the plain of Ur, where an interreligious meeting was held extremely significant due to the variety of religious traditions that are intertwined in the history of the Middle Eastern country. Ur is also a key place in the history of Abraham, considered the common father for the three great religions of the book: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. On the occasion, Francis evoked the dramatic season of the domination of the Islamic State (IS) group in northern Iraq: "I would like to recall in particular the Yazidi community which mourned the death of many men and saw thousands of women, girls and children kidnapped, sold as slaves and subjected to physical violence and forced conversions. Today we pray that freedom of conscience and religious freedom are respected and recognized everywhere: they are fundamental rights, because they make man free to contemplate the sky for which he was created ".