Preserving Pluralism and Diversity
To foster tolerance and civility in the Middle East, all nations must respect the rights of minority religious and ethnic groups and actively work to keep them in their traditional homelands.
The United Nations came to this consensus during their panel discussion on “Preserving Pluralism and Diversity in the Nineveh Region.”
The Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations and the Knights of Columbus co-sponsored the event, which focused on improving the conditions for minority communities in Nineveh, a region that has historically included a large Christian community.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops conducted this panel as part of its “Solidarity in Suffering: A Week of Awareness and Education for Persecuted Christians” initiative, which the Knights of Columbus co-sponsored.
In 2014, the Islamic State pillaged the Nineveh Plains but has since been driven out and defeated. The situation remains fragile, with many ethnic and religious minorities having abandoned the region while others are unsure about returning home.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson explained that without a notion of pluralism, in which different political and religious beliefs are upheld, “the need to respect the rights of minorities is lost, and this often affects members of the majority as well.”
He continued, “During ISIS’ occupation of Nineveh, even as it sought to eliminate the religious minorities completely, many from the majority population were also victimized as their rights too evaporated. Without minorities, rights often vanish for everyone.”
The supreme knight also warned that despite a military and political victory, those in favor of pluralism would lose the “war of ideas” if ISIS achieved its general goal of eliminating religious minorities.
Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Erbil, Iraq, told the U.N. audience that Christians are a “key partner for the future of pluralism in Iraq.” They must be considered “part of the solution, not part of the problem, in terms of bringing peace and human rights to Iraq.”
In order to more effectively work in the region and with the international community, the three major Christian communities of Iraq – the Chaldean Catholic, Syrian Catholic and Syrian Orthodox churches — have formed the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, chaired the meeting and said the Holy See was committed to ensuring that Christians “can return to their places of origin and live in dignity and safety with the basic social, political and economic frameworks necessary to ensure community cohesion.”