Also present at the conference was Archbishop Alberto Ortega Martin, apostolic nuncio to Iraq and Jordan, who gave a keynote address on the current situation on the ground in Iraq.
In his speech, Ortega also voiced anxiety over the consequences of the referendum and the backlash the vote has received from various international leaders.
“The Baghdad government, as was foreseeable, opposed this initiative by considering it illegal and against the constitution and is now taking countermeasures,” he said. However, authorities in surrounding countries such as Turkey and Iran have also condemned the vote, threatening to “take measures” against Kurdistan.
“Many other countries have asked to suspend or at least postpone the initiative,” he said, noting that the referendum vote has added to uncertainty in the region by causing “tensions and controversy.”
Referring to positions taken by both the United Nations Office for Iraq and its Secretary-General, Ortega highlighted the “inappropriateness” of the referendum in the country’s current political and social climate, and echoed the U.N. office’s desire for both the Kurdish government and the central Iraqi government to “resolve open issues through dialogue and negotiation.”
In a session with journalists after the conference, Sako said Iraqis must “find a way of living together.”
Right now “there is a mentality of violence (and) the people are already tired,” he said. “So we need to help the people think in a new way.”
“Before rebuilding houses with stones we have to rebuild the person,” the patriarch said, noting the fear among Iraqi Christians that the referendum “will create problems between the central government and the Kurdish government.”
“Tensions are already very high and the people are afraid,” he said. He called on the international community to take responsibility in assisting the central government and the Kurdish government “to push the two to have a serious, courageous dialogue to find a solution.”
“Everyone is waiting. What will happen tomorrow? Will there be a new war or not? Will there be peace? They don't know,” Sako said. “Everyone is waiting, waiting with fear, without certainty.”