Several Shiite clerics in the city of Najaf have launched an initiative for societal cooperation and joint dialogue with the Sunni provinces in Iraq, a report by Al-Monitor said.
Jawad al-Khoei, who heads the Dar al-Ilm in Najaf and co-founded the initiative, told Al-Monitor that in the first phase of the initiative, a delegation from Najaf visited Anbar University on Jan. 10 for meetings to open channels of communication with Sunni scholars and other religious figures, professors, students, intellectuals and civil society members.
“[The goal is to] promote the concept of equal citizenship among all Iraqis and uphold values of shared living and co-existence,” he said.
Composed of various segments of Najaf society, the delegation included religious authorities, professors from the University of Kufa and youth leaders from civil society organizations.
“The initiative will include other visits to the governorates of Salahuddin, north of Baghdad, and Mosul in northern Iraq,” Khoei said. “There are also several local NGOs in Najaf working in cooperation with international NGOs, including the Finnish Crisis Management Initiative, which is also involved in this project.”
The report noted that the main Sunni provinces in Iraq, including Anbar, Salahuddin and Mosul, along with other regions in Iraq, suffer social fragmentation as a result of being controlled by ISIS for almost three years.
“That period had been preceded by another episode of social upheaval with the sectarian conflict ignited between Sunnis and Shiites following the US-led invasion in 2003 and subsequent occupation. All this has created deep mistrust between Sunnis in those governorates and Iraqis in Shiite- and Kurdish-majority provinces,” it said.
During the delegation visit to Anbar, Khoei addressed a group of intellectuals and professors at Anbar University. “We are all in the same boat, whether in the northern, southern, central or western governorates. All of them suffer from one problem: corruption, poor services, and unequal distribution of wealth.”
He indicated that the only solution to these problems is to work toward the establishment of a “state of citizenship.”
The report concluded saying that initiative members are currently organizing visits to the Salahuddin and Mosul provinces by mid-2019, followed by Najaf playing host to Sunni personalities and leaders from those governorates.