On November 17th, the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah commemorated the United Nations International Day of Tolerance by bringing together community leaders from across the diverse spectrum of Iraqi society for an event held at the Mnawi Basha Hotel. The UN International Day of Tolerance promotes respect and appreciation for the world’s rich variety of cultures, histories, religions, forms of expression, and ways of being human. The event featured speakers from the U.S. Consulate General in Basrah, the United Nations Mission to Iraq, the Basrah Provincial Council, and civil society groups working in southern Iraq. Consul General Steve Walker expressed his admiration for all Iraqis working to build a culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. In his remarks, CG Walker said:
“During my short time as Consul General I’ve had the privilege to meet and interact with Iraqis across the diverse spectrum of society here in Basrah – different backgrounds, families, names, and religions, but all Basrawis living in a shared community with a great deal of shared history and shared hopes for a future of greater peace and prosperity.
Iraq, like the United States, is a richly diverse country. Former President Jimmy Carter once described the United States as a “beautiful mosaic” – each cultural, ethnic, and religious “tile” is separate and distinct, but they all come together to form a beautiful whole. In this way, I view Iraq as a mosaic as well – Sunni, Shia, Syriac Christian, Assyrian, Sabean Mandean, black Iraqis – the list goes on. You are all part of the unique fabric of society here in Basrah, and of the broader community that includes all Iraqis.
This is not to ignore the great challenges facing Iraq and so many of its communities today. Every society, including ours in the United States, grapples with its own set of challenges. Today, Iraqis are fighting against the brutality of Da’esh. In the face of this evil, we have seen Iraqis from all backgrounds stand up, volunteer to defend the country, and offer to assist fellow Iraqis who have been displaced from their homes and their communities.
I was incredibly moved during my visit to a camp for displaced people from Salahedeen recently. Some of the people I met in the camp said they did not feel like they were displaced – they felt like they were at home in Basrah, because of the way that the Basrawi people welcomed them.
This is the spirit of tolerance that has been such an important part of Basrah’s history, which has made this city such a unique cultural and economic treasure throughout Iraq’s long and rich history. Today, we celebrate that spirit, and we rededicate ourselves to helping to strengthen and carry on the tolerance and diversity of Basrah that we all cherish so much. Meanwhile, the United States and our coalition partners will continue to stand with the Iraqi people and the Government of Iraq to defeat Da’esh and to build a future where all Iraqis can enjoy security and freedom, in peaceful coexistence together.”