ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The head of the Chaldean Church, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, has called for the separation of religion and state in a future constitution for the Kurdistan Region, promoting a “civil constitution” that recognises pluralism and the Region’s diversity.
“A civil constitution must be in harmony with the new reality, a constitution that is based on universally recognized principles identified by international law and human rights, such as recognition of pluralism, gender and diversity,” Sako said at the conference hosted by the University of Kurdistan-Hewler on Wednesday.
Sako called for the separation of religion from the state, saying that it is the only way to ensure the freedom of practicing religions in the Region, home to diverse faiths.
“The inclusion of religion in politics is a distortion of it and its sublime values,” he told the audience.
“The civil state is the system of managing public affairs, embracing all religions, cultures, groups and languages and administering their public affairs fairly, and it does not interfere with the religious choices of its citizens.”
Sako also thanked the President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, for the success of the pope’s visit to the region in March. As head of the Chaldean church, an eastern branch of Catholicism, Sako played a key role in the papal trip.
Pope Francis held mass in Erbil for more than 10,000 worshippers during his historic three-day trip to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, becoming the first pontiff to ever visit the country.
Upon his arrival in Erbil, he met with President Barzani and several other leaders.
Sako also thanked the government and the people of the Kurdistan Region for receiving Christian IDPs displaced by the Islamic State (ISIS).