During the first day of deliberations at the conference on the status of Christians in Iraq, I arranged 28-30 June, I presented the following introductory figures
Last October, my advisors and I travelled to Ankawa and the Nineveh Plains.
It was our third trip to Iraq, during a short period of time.
The reason for this particular trip, was a resolution which was passed in the European parliament just days before we took off.
The resolution, which I had the privilege to spearhead, deals with the responsibility of the European Union, after the defeat of ISIS in Mosul.
The need for assistance when it comes to reconstruction and repatriation is emphasized.
A strong political support for self-governance at the Nineveh Plains is articulated – self-governance within the framework of the Iraqi constitution.
Furthermore the resolution underscores the need for security arrangements and military support to regional defence forces.
This is described as imperative – in order to make it possible for IDPs and refugees to return home.
When I presented the content of the resolution to representatives of the political parties of the Chaldean/Syriac/Assyrian population, the response was encouraging.
After deliberations and discussions all of the parties involved, decided to support the resolution, and sign a joint letter to the High Representative, Mrs Mogerini – a letter which calls on the EU Commission, and EU member states, to act upon the recommendations of the resolution.
At the same time, these party representatives, namely you who are here, gave me an assignment.
You asked me to organize an international Conference which could serve as a platform for dialogue, about the future for the people of Nineveh.
And my Friends, thanks to your determination and courage, thanks to dedicated and highly professional advisors like Charlie Weimers, Johannes de Jong, Metin Rahvi, Nuri Kino and others:
Here we are.
Here we are with a challenging but important task ahead of us – here we are with an opportunity to make a difference. For your people, the victims of persecution and genocide.
During several visits to Iraq, I have visited the deserted towns and villages on the Nineveh Plains.
I´ve seen the destroyed houses and ruined Holy sites, I´ve met with ordinary people, displaced persons, political representatives and Christian leaders.
Generally I´ve met with brave men and woman who have suffered so badly, and without a substantial signal of hope, many of them consider giving up.
Giving up a place where your family have lived for generations, where your descendants have farmed the land for centuries – that´s not an easy thing.
That breaks your heart.
Comprehension is important but might be painful; listening to the testimonies about human suffering, seeing the consequences of persecution and genocide is overwhelming.
It broke my heart.
And it reminded me of what we as decision makers have to do.
Without a comprehensive political solution for the Nineveh Plains, the future for Chaldeans/Syriacs/Assyrians, is at stake.
As a matter of fact, we are facing the last call for Christians in Iraq – other groups with historical ties to the area are likewise endangered – Yezidies, Turkmens, Shabak and Kakai.
A disappearance of these groups from the Middle East, will mean the termination of indigenous peoples from the region.
Middle East without its mosaic of traditions and people will be a region rapidly going into a dark age – with no hope for sustainable peace and stability.
Without Christians, the Middle East can no longer rely on a community which for centuries have been a broker between different ethnic or religious groups.
Assisting the vulnerable people of the Middle East is the right thing to do.
As representatives of the European Union, as citizens of Europe, we have a responsibility to give a helping hand to people in need – at the same time, such help is also in our interest.
Fighting ISIS and radical Islam, confronting evil acts and genocide, is a fundamental mission.
Not only for Middle East governments – but also for the European Union and the entire world.
Therefore this Conference is so important.
For the first time since ISIS´ launched the Iraqi offensive, different Churches, political parties and relevant stakeholders are able to come together internationally, to discuss the future of Chaldeans/Syriacs/Assyrians.
And let´s be clear; your future should be defined and decided by you.
We as hosts, as representatives of the EU, cannot and will not impact the agenda of the Christian parties’ of Iraq.
What we can do is providing an environment, which hopefully is beneficial for productive talks and necessary consultations.
As you all know, some political representatives and parties have chosen not to participate in this Conference.
We regret that, at the same time we respect their decision.
And make no mistake; this Conference represents the Churches, the political parties and NGOs, which are present here in Brussels.
Parties not participating in the Conference speak for themselves – that goes without saying.
To criticize and condemn is part of politics – to find attack points and black paint is not difficult.
It´s much more difficult to be part of a sometimes complicated dialogue, to compromise and take responsibility during tough conditions.
That takes political will, and above all; that takes courage and sensible leadership.
As party representatives you are here, first and foremost, to stand up for your people – hopefully we can offer you a conference of constructive discussions.
Let me also stress that those parties who have chosen not to participate, are always welcome to join – the door to dialogue and talks remains open.
Let´s hope that dark times of division soon will be over – let´s hope for brighter days, of reconciliation and unity.
You as Chaldeans/Syriacs/Assyrians deserve a future in peace, with security, democracy and a life in fullness.
In your ancient homelands, the Nineveh Plains.
Thank you for listening, I wish you all a successful Conference and again, welcome to European Parliament.