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WikiLeaks: 2008-11-04: 08BAGHDAD3493: PRT DHI QAR Hosts Nuncio at Interfaith Provincial Gathering

by WikiLeaks. 08BAGHDAD3493: November 04, 2008.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 12:28 PM UT


Viewing cable 08BAGHDAD3493, PRT DHI QAR HOSTS NUNCIO AT INTERFAITH PROVINCIAL

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08BAGHDAD3493 2008-11-04 02:28 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Baghdad
VZCZCXRO2215
RR RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDE RUEHIHL RUEHKUK
DE RUEHGB #3493/01 3090228
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 040228Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0204
INFO RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BAGHDAD 003493 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KRIF PGOV IZ
SUBJECT: PRT DHI QAR HOSTS NUNCIO AT INTERFAITH PROVINCIAL 
GATHERING 
 
BAGHDAD 00003493  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
1.  (U) This is a PRT Dhi Qar reporting cable. 
 
2.  (SBU) Summary.  The Papal Nuncio visited Ur on October 23 
accompanied by senior Embassy officials.  Although weather 
conditions compressed the party's time on the ground, it had 
the opportunity to meet with the small Christian community, 
which has fallen on hard times, and join in a lunch with the 
leading members of Dhi Qar's various communities, including 
the Governor.  Of particular significance was the presence of 
Sayyid Majeed Thayef Al-Sahlani, the representative of 
Ayatollah Sistani in the province.  The visit demonstrated 
that the leadership of Nasiriyah is interested in deepening 
ties with the international community and  is keen to play a 
visible role in promoting good relations with Iraq's 
religious minorities.  It also suggests that PRTs can 
successfully play a facilitating role in organizing 
interfaith events. End summary. 
 
3.  (SBU) On October 23, the Papal Nuncio arrived in Tallil 
on a whirlwind visit to Ur, the ruined city of Abraham and 
Sarah.  A cross-section of Dhi Qar's community leaders warmly 
welcomed the Nuncio and his party at the reception rooms in 
the shadow of Ur's 4,000 year-old Great Ziggurat.  The Shia 
religious establishment was represented by Sayyid Majeed 
Thayef Al-Sahlani, representative of Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani 
in Dhi Qar, and Sayyids Thayef Al-Sahlani and Khalid 
Al-Yaseri.  Dhi Qar Governor Aziz Kadum Alwan Al-Ogheli 
(ISCI) and LTC Falah Kadim, Commander of the Police Joint 
Operations Center, represented the Provincial Government. 
Sitting beside the Governor was Sheikh Talib al-Harbi, a 
popular tribal leader considered by some of our contacts as a 
possible candidate for governor in the next election, and his 
retinue.   Dhi Qar's small but prosperous Mandaean community 
was represented by its Head, Dr. Samer Naeem Handal.  The 
Nuncio was particularly solicitous of the two Chaldean 
Catholic families that comprise the remnant of Nasiriyah's 
Christian community.  The Nuncio had the opportunity to speak 
with each set of community leaders, and appeared to 
particularly enjoy his conversation with the Sayyids. 
 
4.  (SBU) Equally notable was the respectful and positive 
interaction of the guests.  After the Nuncio's departure, 
Al-Sahlani, the representative of Ayatollah Sistani, 
emphasized to Team Leader his respect for and fellowship with 
the "old families" of the Mandaean and Christian communities, 
who were very much part of Dhi Qar's social fabric.  He 
expressed an interest in working with the PRT to address the 
needs of the poor in the community.  The mutual respect 
demonstrated by reception participants augured well for the 
future of community relations and provided a glimpse into one 
possible shape that Iraq's future could take.  The presence 
of the Shi'a clerics was in large part due to the 
intercession of  LTC Kadim, who conveyed the PRT's invitation 
to them. 
 
5.  (SBU) The Chaldean Catholic community in Nasiriyah, never 
numerous, fell onto particularly hard times twenty years ago. 
 Its two families are headed by Douglas Stanley, ironically 
the Director of Nasiriyah's Islamic Bank, and the 
construction entrepreneur Gamal Tobia , still considered a 
newcomer in Nasiriya despite nearly a lifetime of residence. 
 Chaldean numbers - essentially the extended Stanley clan-- 
once constituted a sufficient population to justify a visit 
by a priest twice a year.  However, Iran-Iraq War deaths and 
emigration reduced the community's number to less than a 
dozen individuals, leaving behind the older generation, the 
very young, and the handicapped.  They worship in Basra once 
a month. 
 
6.  (SBU) The Nuncio was accompanied by Gordon Senior Advisor 
for Southern Affairs Gordon Gray, Deputy Political Counselor 
and poloff.  Low-key in his approach, the Nuncio demonstrated 
personal charm and appeared comfortable while conversing with 
guests and patient with the press.  Evidently expecting an 
inspection of the dry bones of a city abandoned more than two 
millennia ago, he showed surprise at and appeared gratified 
by the warmth and animation of the reception.  With the 
weather cutting the visit from five hours to two, the party 
made a brief climb up the Ziggurat of Ur before departing 
Tallil for Baghdad. 
 
7.  (SBU) Comment:  The visit is the first by the current 
Papal Nuncio to Nasiriyah and generated remarkable interest 
among PRT contacts in Dhi Qar.  Provincial community leaders 
are keen on receiving diplomatic and other international 
visitors and are quite capable of putting aside any 
differences to do so.  We realize, too, that such visits give 
us credibility by opening doors to new ties, sources of 
cooperation, or business opportunities.   The respect we saw 
at the reception gives us hope for the future of 
 
BAGHDAD 00003493  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
intercommunal dialogue in the province.  We look forward to 
identifying common interests to encourage further 
bridge-building.  Its success is also testament to the strong 
reputation the PRT has built up in the province for being 
even-handed between communities and supportive of community 
priorities.  End comment. 
CROCKER

 



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