Archive for May 2013

Is the Chaldean Catholic Church on a collision course with chaldean nationalists?

Attended by representatives and delegates from North America, Europe and other parts of the world, the 3rd ‘Chaldean

Mar. Louis Sako

Mar. Louis Sako, patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church

National Conference’ was held in Detroit last week (May 15-19)

Meanwhile, and as the conference was still on-going, the patriarch of the Chaldean church, his holiness Mar Louis Sako published his message to the clergy of the church (May 19). His first in his new role.

Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

In this message to the clergy, he explained the importance of faith and unity to tackle the challenges that the church is facing now and in the future.

Furthermore, he went on to clarify the church’s stand in relation to national matters. He basically reiterated his and the church’s evangelical and missionary statement and stressed the need for it to stay this way and not to deviate into political matters. It is a ‘red line’ for the church which can’t be crossed. Though he did make it clear that he encourages others to get engaged, build schools to teach the language,  create political parties to defend citizens’ rights etc. But the church and its clergy simply can’t interfere or be part of those non-religious activities, even if they are to further and develop the national chaldean identity.

His letter takes an interesting twist while discussing the role of the church in relation to politics and national matters. The church and its clergy, though very proud of the church’s history and identity, will continue to carry its mission as a church and not a political entity. He also hinted and pointed to certain writers on community websites who have tried their best to get the church to declare its agreement and support of certain political agendas, which the church has refused due to it being unrelated to the church’s mission and role. In fact, Mar Louis Sako narrowed it down by pointing out that this website belongs to a church congregation (probably somewhere in the United Stated) . The letter delves deeper to address claims by a certain chaldean deacon that the patriarch has denied his national identity. So not only are nationalists attacking his national motives, you have a man from the church itself questioning the patriarch’s national motives and identity. Talk about blasphemy!

This letter doesn’t seem to sit well with certain individuals and online authors, especially the so-called chaldean nationalists, a lot of whom were present at this conference. It hit the wrong note. They are not pleased that the patriarch didn’t come out and declare his full and unconditional support and allegiance to the chaldean nation, as if he is a president or the secretary of a political party. He is a religious man and his duty is to be the head of a church and not a national movement. In fact, he made it quiet clear that he has pride and encourages others to pursue political and cultural endeavors that benefit the people and their rights.  What more could he have called for?

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s…” comes to mind…

To be fair, similar ideological clashes and misunderstandings are not exclusive to the chaldean church and their nationalists. It has happened in Assyrian politics as well, where the Patriarch (HH Mar Dinkha) was at times in a lose-lose situation with Assyrian nationalists. But Mar Dinkha has been on the scene long enough and is seasoned and wise enough to know how to deal with these ‘politics vs. religion’ dilemmas. But what does make the chaldean experience an interesting one is the fact that the patriarch of the church is new, having only been in his position for a few months. This could set a tone for future exchanges between the church and the nationalists.

If picking sides was required in this situation, it would be wise to be on the side of the patriarch in this case. For simple reasons.  The patriarch is doing what he is required to do, while still showing limited support for the nationalists and their aspirations. On the other hand, the nationalists want to impose their will on the patriarch, to step outside of his religious boundaries and into political ones. And make no mistake about it, should he cross that ‘red line’ , nationalists will be up in arms about his meddling into their issues.

Not only can this get more serious in the future, the nationalists’ can compromise any future unity with Assyrians. Mar Louis Sako has already repeatedly expressed his desires to unite our eastern churches (Assyrian, Chaldean, Syriac.) In his own words: “As for unity, that is a bigger challenge, as we will have no future without it…” . So seems like the so-called chaldean nationalists have a second bone to pick with the patriarch: the unity he is calling for, which most are probably not in favor.

Let the man do his job or at least give him some more time before you are down his throat, judging his motives and intentions for his nation. Or at least let us seperate church and state for a moment, while his holiness settles in his seat.