By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Religious leaders from several communities across Iraq have released a joint statement to collectively highlight their commitment towards peace, and show solidarity to the victims of crimes committed by the so-called Islamic State.
The interfaith document is signed by representatives of the United Nations (UN) and several religious authorities, including Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako, the archbishop of Baghdad. It is the first instance of a joint endorsement of the need for justice and the rights of victims by religious leaders in the country.
In the statement, the religious leaders condemn the violence of the IS, referring to it as “contrary to the core principles of our religious faiths as well as the fundamental values of humanity”.
Special care for victims
The document recognizes the heroic acts of some individuals who rose in defense of others from different religious and ethnic backgrounds. It also highlights the urgency of supporting persons impacted by the crimes of the IS, especially since members of all religions across Iraq have been affected by their actions.
Citing the particular cases of victims of sexual and gender-based crimes, the religious leaders expressed their commitment to “ensuring that survivors of such crimes are fully supported and do not suffer from any form of stigmatization.”
The document describes the child victims of the IS violence as “innocent children of God.” As such, they are “blameless and should benefit from love and kindness.” Also, a plea is made for the return of those taken from their homes.
Justice and fair trial
Underlining the importance of justice, the statement affirms the collective support for the exposure and prosecution of individual members of IS crimes in courts of law. This is to serve as a “means of delivering justice” and as a “tool for promoting understanding of the severity and scale of its violence.”
The UN has hailed this statement as “the beginning of a process of further engagement with other religious leaders in Iraq.”