Iraqi Politician Awarded Peace Prize in London for Defending Christians

Yonadam Kanna, a senior of the Iraqi National Assembly, has been honored for his achievements in promoting interfaith dialogue and preventing persecution of Christians in Iraq during a Monday ceremony in London's House of Lords.

Kanna, a Christian, received the Peace Prize awarded by the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRME), a UK charity aiming to promote peace and stability in the region, from the hands of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey.

"Our desire today is to honor this very brave man who is utterly genuine in his search for peace, not just in Iraq but across the Middle East," Carey said.

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Kanna is the secretary-general of the Assyrian Democratic Movement (the Zowaa Party), which is currently the only ethnic Assyrian party in the Iraqi assembly. Mr Kanna has supported FRRME in its reconciliation efforts since 2003.

FRRME Director Peter Marsden said that the politician manages to argue calmly and persuasively for all minority groups, particularly Iraqi Christians, even in the face of great adversity, .

"He is a great and effective advocate for peace in Iraq," Marsden said.

Upon receiving the award, Kanna thanked FRRME for support.

"They have done a great job in reconciliation between Sunni and Shia groups, but they have also protected Christians through their efforts. As our Lord commanded, we continue to try and live by peace, love and forgiveness," he said.

Between October 2010 and January 2011, Iraq saw a surge in attacks against Christians, including the death of over 50 worshippers in an attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Syrian Catholic Church in Baghdad.

In response to the violence, Kanna reportedly pushed for an emergency summit of FRRME’s High Council of Religious Leaders in Iraq (HCRLI), of which he is a member. During the summit he encouraged the Council's Muslim leaders to issue a joint fatwa banning violence against religious minorities.

The fatwa remains fully in effect and is read repeatedly at 80 percent of Iraq’s mosques, both Sunni and Shia, and through Middle East broadcasts to an estimated 50 million people, stated FRRME.

More than 110,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed since 2003, an estimated 12,000 by suicide bombings, according to the organization's data.

FRRME is a UK-based non-profit organization and a registered charity, lead by Canon Andrew White, a spiritual leader and author who, before moving to Iraq, spent many years in Israel and Palestine and participated in negotiating the end of the Bethlehem siege in 2002, according to FRRME website.

The organization looks to promote conflict resolution in the Middle East and provide humanitarian relief. It specializes in conflicts where there is a religious component to the violence, according to the website.

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