MECC: Religious Consultation on Social Cohesion in Iraq
Final communique of Consultation held in Beirut, Lebanon, from Dec. 13-15, 2021
Invited by the World Council of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches, 40 representatives of religious authorities and leaders of various Iraqi religions, congregations, and ethnic groups, came together in Beirut to follow up on recommendations of the 2017 conference held in Beirut under the title “Interfaith Consultation of Social Cohesion in Iraq”, and to discuss emerging challenges and future prospects for social cohesion in Iraq.
The consultations were held between the 13th and the 15th of December 2021 in Beirut, and come on the heels of recent many changes and developments in Iraq, including: the protest movement that started in October 2019, the October 2021 parliamentary elections, regional and international developments, and the polarizations that have impacted the entire Middle East and Iraq in particular.
The discussions centered on three key issues with direct impact on social cohesion in Iraq:
- The constitutional and legal reality
Participants agreed that the following principles would be the basis for joint action:
- Human dignity
- A civil state that protects the rights of everyone, promotes the principle of citizenship, and embraces diversity
- Countering hate speech and extremism
- Accountability, justice, and fighting corruption
- The Human Fraternity document, the Pope’s visit to Iraq, and the meeting with prominent religious leaders.
It was emphasized that the problem was not in the religious and ethnic diversity that already exist in Iraq, but in the politicized interpretations and religious practices, as well as the mismanagement of this diversity. Participants stressed the role of the state in providing protection for its citizens, preventing attacks based on their religious differences, securing restorative transitional justice, and suppressing hate speech.
The participants underlined the need to ensure sustainability of existence for all different groups, because, together, they constitute the wealth and richness of Iraq. This could be accomplished through the recognition that everyone has the right to be engaged in public affairs and decision-making mechanisms, especially on matters that directly affect their lives, as well as by building on the common history that brings Iraqis together and refining collective memory.
Attendees agreed on the need to incorporate scientific standards so as to accurately define legal terminology for better law enforcement in a practical manner that does not leave room for unaccountability and oppression.
In conclusion, participants expressed their commitment to continue to work together to promote and spread both the culture of diversity and peaceful coexistence in Iraq, with practical application in public policies, education, media, and other areas. Detailed recommendations are to be adopted and serve as the basis for next steps and a future action plan.