RIYAD: The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF) hosted a webinar on Thursday, titled “Pope Francis in Iraq: A Time of Human Fraternity,” to discuss concrete steps that can be taken to ensure that the seed of Harmony in Iraq continues to grow, with partnerships across all religious and ethnic divisions.
“We, the Iraqi people, are working to maintain the momentum of Pope Francis’ visit,” said Hassan Nadhem, Iraqi Minister of Culture. “We have created a high commission at the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers dedicated to this mission, and have many projects to come.
A department for cultural diversity has also been set up, he added.
Three months ago, Pope Francis made a “pilgrimage” to Iraq, becoming the first Catholic pope in history to visit the country. He visited cities including Mosul, Baghdad and Erbil with a message of peace.
“You are all brothers,” he said.
Mohammed Abdel Salam, Secretary General of HCHF and former advisor to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, reaffirmed the message of the Sovereign Pontiff in his opening statement, declaring: “We are all brothers, and Iraq is in all our hearts “.
He said, “Today I am part of a diverse group of people who represent hope in their hard work and determination for the cause of human brotherhood. Today we come together for the good of Iraq and to discuss how we can build on the historic visit of Pope Francis.
“Iraq is a country with people from all walks of life,” he added.
Iraq, the “cradle of civilization” known for its history of coexistence under Mesopotamian rule, has been plagued by wars, economic crises and, more recently, the health crisis of COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Mosul, in particular, has been devastated by extremist militants in recent years. Its mosques and churches were destroyed, its municipal library burned down and the traffic in antiques, all in the hands of Daesh.
In February 2018, UNESCO launched the “Revival of the Spirit of Mosul” initiative at the International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq in Kuwait.
The $ 100 million program aims to link international efforts to help rebuild the devastated city and restore its heritage.
Noura Al-Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth of the United Arab Emirates, praised the joint effort, in partnership with UNESCO, for the reconstruction of Mosul.
“We took the plunge to engage in ‘Mosul Spirit Renewal’ because we wanted to be alongside our brothers and sisters in Mosul and Iraq, supporting them in the rebirth of the identity of the city and the reconstruction of their future, by instilling hope and demonstrating the power of solidarity.
“The United Arab Emirates hope this is a sustainable project; it’s very important to us, ”she said. “The project has already employed 600 people and is targeting 1,000 employment and training opportunities by 2023.”
The initiative includes the establishment of educational institutes, a museum with the remains of the Al-Nouri Mosque – destroyed by Daesh in 2017 – among other restorations of monumental monuments, all of which will contribute to the increase in tourism and economic recovery, according to Al -Kaabi.
Ernesto Ottone, Deputy Director General of UNESCO, said the second phase of the initiative offers more than 2,800 job opportunities for Iraqi women and men.
“Young Iraqis have many talents and are really ready to seize any opportunities,” said Olivier Poquillon, representative of the Dominican order to UNESCO and the United Arab Emirates restoration project in Mosul.
Louis Raphaël Ier Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, called on the Iraqi people to become one and to work to renew interreligious dialogue.
The Iraqi Minister of Culture announced the completion of an official booklet that informs and recognizes the different religions of the people – the completion of which came with the help and support of Sayyed Jawad Al-Khoei, Shiite religious leader in Najaf and founder of the Iraqi Council for Interfaith Dialogue.
“We must also play our part in shaping the family home, criminalizing offensive speech and preventing mutual killings,” said Abdul Wahab Taha Al-Sammerai, Imam of the Abu Hanifa Mosque in Baghdad.
“And we must be united to legislate on these issues. Only then will we achieve a marital status in which everyone is equal.
All the panelists expressed their joy at the imminent visit of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar to Iraq to strengthen the mission of human brotherhood of Pope Francis.