Speaking at a conference, the cardinal criticised the invisibility of Christians in school textbooks. Culture can represent a barrier to the barbarism of the Islamic State group and other extremisms. Art and history are a people’s "living memory" and represent more wealth than oil. Leading figures of various ethnic and religious backgrounds should make a joint statement to that end.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Iraq’s Christian cultural, historical and artistic heritage should be preserved "like the Islamic heritage,” said Chaldean Patriarch Card Louis Raphael Sako. It "saddens me not to find any reference to this heritage, to our contribution to the nation’s civilisation, in its school books,” he added.
Via video link, the cardinal spoke yesterday to the Second Conference on ‘Conservation of the world heritage’ in crisis areas (29-30 July), promoted by the Iraqi National Committee for Education, Culture and Science, in collaboration with Al-Mustansiriya University.
In his address, the patriarch noted that a people’s cultural heritage is its “living memory" and greatest "treasure" because "it not only contributed to building its past, but also to its present".
In Iraq, he went on to say, "we must prepare educational curricula for our students" to teach "education, respect and acceptance of others, their life and diversity.”
Such openness is fundamental to "preserve one’s heritage and dismantle" radical ideology, like that promoted by the Islamic State (IS) group which destroyed monuments, treasures and historical places in Nimrod, Hatra and Mosul.
Since the days when he was archbishop of Kirkuk, Card Sako has spoken out against the dangers that threaten Iraq’s cultural heritage, a "universal good" to be safeguarded like the country’s archaeological heritage, which alone is worth "more than oil".
Such a task falls on all Iraqis, not only Christians, something that he mentioned at the 2016 conference on Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage in conflict areas, held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, which brought together heads of state and government, Islamic and Christian clerics, historians, archaeologists, as well as cultural experts and activists.
For Card Sako, a country’s cultural heritage does not belong to a single class, ethnic group or religion, but is a "universal good" and source of "wealth for all humanity". It is more important than oil because it is "immortal and does not run out" if properly preserved.
"The Christian heritage is a human legacy and an integral part of Iraqi’s heritage, and includes monasteries and churches,” places like the 1st century church in Kochi (Tell Kuchi, 35 km south-west of Baghdad), plus sculptures, icons and manuscripts.
"Christians welcomed Muslims in the 7th century and contributed to the construction of Islamic culture, especially during the era of the Abbasid caliphate in the 'House of Wisdom', with their doctors, translators and architects" who built many mosques and buildings of great value that still stand today.”
For the cardinal, "This heritage must be cared for, maintained, and displayed in schools and universities”; it must also include references to Shias, Sunnis, Christians, Yazidis, Sabaeans and Mandaeans. To this end, he would like to see a joint statement on the matter.