United We Rise: How diverse religious leaders are promoting coexistence in Iraq

Posted January 18, 2021

Religious leaders from various faiths across Iraq have come together to celebrate Iraq's diversity and promote peace in their communities. 

Supported by UNDP Iraq, 87 religious leaders from Erbil, Baghdad, Anbar, and Ninewa attended an eight-day online training session that coincided with the end of a challenging 2020, and a universal period of hope for good things to come in the year ahead.  Over six different religious sects were represented, including Sunni and Shia Muslim, Christian, Yazidism, Sabian Mandaeism, Zoroastrianism, Yarsanism, and Bahai.

Mohammed, Imam and Khateeb, Muslim, Anbar 

When religious leaders work together, security and safety of communities is increased. The role of religious leaders is crucial in combatting violence and extremism and promoting unity and cohesion inside communities for a safer and more secure country.

Ara, Deacon, Christian Armenian, Baghdad 

A key message I tell people is to love each other unconditionally, in order to bring truth and justice to the people, because the Lord loves us as we are, and extremism does not benefit anyone. We all eat the same bread, drink the same water, and breathe the same air.

Sheikh Majid, Imam and Speaker, Muslim, Ninewa 

Religion calls for equality, love for others, and the rejection of hatred. On this basis comes the role of religion in serving society to achieve cohesion and integration with others, because that is an essential part of life.

Sarkawt, Religious Leader, Muslim, Erbil 

Humans were all created equally. There is no difference between religious groups and we can all exist together. 

About the training 

The training included peacebuilding workshops focusing on enhancing dialogue, creative expression, coexistence during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the role of Iraqi women in building peace. It also helped religious leaders to disseminate accurate information about COVID-19 to the public and improve the skills necessary for implementation of community peace initiatives. 

A coexistence network will be established among the trained religious leaders to foster dialogue, coexistence, and tolerance among communities in close coordination with the 24 Local Peace Committees supported by UNDP across the country.  

UNDP Iraq’s Social Cohesion Programme is committed to improving community well-being and building cohesion by promoting peace and tolerance among various religious groups and ethnicities in Iraq, thanks to generous support from the Government of Denmark.