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A stable world is in everyone’s interests

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A stable world is in everyone’s interests

Mar-08-2011 at 03:28 AM (UTC+3 Nineveh, Assyria)

Fathy Gatthas, a Christian, was killed in a shooting rampage by Egyptian policeman Amer Ashour Abdelzaher last month (Keystone)

A stable world is in everyone’s interests
by Eveline Kobler,
(Adapted from German by Thomas Stephens)

Following attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt and Christians in Iraq, a diplomat tells how Switzerland is trying to combat religiously motivated violence.
Claude Wild is head of a political division within the foreign ministry concerned with religion, politics and conflict.

On January 6 an attack outside a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt, killed 23 people and left dozens wounded.

And Iraq is experiencing an exodus of Christians following attacks there at the end of last year. Switzerland is involved in peace work and supports the harmonious coexistence between people of different religions and worldviews. Why?

Claude Wild: It belongs to the Swiss tradition of standing up for peace, human rights and vulnerable people. Second, it’s in our own interests to live in a stable world. Foreign policy is a policy of protecting interests. We are a country that needs security – it’s also necessary for safeguarding our prosperity.

A stable world, in which international rules are upheld and people of different worldviews and religions can live in peace, is in the interest of not only people who suffer but of everyone. Is Switzerland currently active in Egypt or Iraq?

C.W.: Neither country is a priority region of Switzerland’s peace work – many other countries are active there. We have however carried out a human rights project in Iraq in which we offered officials training in the area of human rights so they could expand their knowledge of protecting minorities and religious freedom.

We’re also busy with a pilot project in Egypt co-run by Islamic women and a Christian non-governmental organisation from Switzerland. They cooperate on humanitarian issues, developing projects and getting to know the other religion and worldview in a really natural and practical way. This approach is typical of our “religion and conflicts” work – we call it “dialogue in practice”. Is Swiss involvement not perceived as interference?

C.W.: No. We don’t have any “hidden agenda” and we were never a colonial power. We’re interested in a stable world but we’re not playing power politics. And our projects are always agreed upon. We never do anything of which a government is unaware. Also we’re frequently asked to help. Has the potential for conflict between Islam and Christianity increased? Why has the situation escalated now?

C.W.: Over past decades the number of Christians in the Middle East has constantly dwindled. In some countries the Christian minority is respected, for example Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. In others they’re in a tricky situation as a result of their country’s instability. But other minorities are in the same boat.

This is the case in Iraq, where Christians aren’t displaced by the state but by the general instability. The Iraqi population as a whole is suffering equally under Islamic extremists.

The state has said it protects minorities, but it can’t enforce this. What’s more, there’s currently a power struggle going on among Muslim communities. The Shiites were oppressed for a long time and are now demanding their share of power. There were Christian ministers in Saddam Hussein’s government who are now considered accomplices of the former regime, which could also lead to acts of revenge on Christians.

The West needs to bear in mind that Christians in the Middle East aren’t immigrants forming an extension of the West – they have always lived in the region. Extremists are now trying to create a false impression by describing them as foreigners. Is religion central to conflicts, or is it a side issue?

C.W.: Religion certainly plays a role in conflicts, but often it is used in order to distinguish one group from another or to strengthen a group’s identity. By and large these groups persecute others as purely religious targets.

History shows that conflicts are always about power and the control of land and resources. Religion is often used with the express intention of attracting people in droves. Religion is used in the power game of politics.


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Assyria \ã-'sir-é-ä\ n (1998)   1:  an ancient empire of Ashur   2:  a democratic state in Bet-Nahren, Assyria (northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, southeastern Turkey and eastern Syria.)   3:  a democratic state that fosters the social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of their religion, race, or gender   4:  a democratic state that believes in the freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture in faithfulness to the principles of the United Nations Charter — Atour synonym

Ethnicity, Religion, Language
» Israeli, Jewish, Hebrew
» Assyrian, Christian, Aramaic
» Saudi Arabian, Muslim, Arabic
Assyrian \ã-'sir-é-an\ adj or n (1998)   1:  descendants of the ancient empire of Ashur   2:  the Assyrians, although representing but one single nation as the direct heirs of the ancient Assyrian Empire, are now doctrinally divided, inter sese, into five principle ecclesiastically designated religious sects with their corresponding hierarchies and distinct church governments, namely, Church of the East, Chaldean, Maronite, Syriac Orthodox and Syriac Catholic.  These formal divisions had their origin in the 5th century of the Christian Era.  No one can coherently understand the Assyrians as a whole until he can distinguish that which is religion or church from that which is nation -- a matter which is particularly difficult for the people from the western world to understand; for in the East, by force of circumstances beyond their control, religion has been made, from time immemorial, virtually into a criterion of nationality.   3:  the Assyrians have been referred to as Aramaean, Aramaye, Ashuraya, Ashureen, Ashuri, Ashuroyo, Assyrio-Chaldean, Aturaya, Chaldean, Chaldo, ChaldoAssyrian, ChaldoAssyrio, Jacobite, Kaldany, Kaldu, Kasdu, Malabar, Maronite, Maronaya, Nestorian, Nestornaye, Oromoye, Suraya, Syriac, Syrian, Syriani, Suryoye, Suryoyo and Telkeffee. — Assyrianism verb

Aramaic \ar-é-'máik\ n (1998)   1:  a Semitic language which became the lingua franca of the Middle East during the ancient Assyrian empire.   2:  has been referred to as Neo-Aramaic, Neo-Syriac, Classical Syriac, Syriac, Suryoyo, Swadaya and Turoyo.

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