Iraqi Christians boycott peaceful coexistence conference, demanding 'concrete change' for religious minorities

Iraqi Christians have boycotted a conference organised by the government to promote the peaceful coexistence of religious communities.

Chaldean Catholic Patriach Louis Sako said there was a fundemental gap between the government's rhetoric and its actionReuters

Other minorities such as Yazidis and Mandaeans also refused to attend the "conference on the protection of peaceful coexistence" which was held on February 7 at the Iraqi parliament, according to Fides. The groups' protest was intended to highlight a gap between rhetoric and action from the government.

"What need is there in participating in meetings like this, and repeating the formulas that give the title to the conference, if then one does not see initiatives and changes in concrete terms?" Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako told local media.

The conference was attended by politicians, diplomats and government ministers and was organised under the patronage of the Presidency of the Parliament and the Sunni Council for religious facilities.

However religious groups refused to attend and the Chaldean Patriach told Fides he had launched an appeal for political and religious leaders to denounce the "legal discrimination and sectarian bullying suffered by Christians" which, he says, is ongoing.

"We met with government officials, and paid a visit to some of the Islamic religious authorities to talk about what we have in common, with regards to our faiths and the life we share in this land," he told Fides in a letter.

"During these meetings, we assured our loyalty to Iraq, which is our country, and we do not seek revenge, we want to live in peace with all Iraqis.

"Unfortunately, none of their promises has become reality."