KERKESLOKH, Iraq — On Sunday, the final session of an inter-faith congress organized by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) concluded in Kerkeslokh (Kirkuk), Iraq. The congress, one in a series organized by UNDP in partnership with the Iraqi government to improve societal cohesion and prevent extremism, and included the participation of faith leaders from a large cross-section of Iraqi society.
The congress lasted for two days and was the fifth in a series of congress that included religious leaders in the provinces liberated from the Islamic State (ISIS). The congress brought together representatives of all religions, including Christians, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Sabean Mandaeans, Kaka’is, and Baha’is.
During the congress, the attendees confirmed the local community’s readiness to reintegrate the families displaced by ISIS and to form a joint committee to promote community peace and prevent violent extremism in Kerkeslokh. The role of the clergy in restoring community peace and spreading tolerance and renouncing violence in Kerkeslokh was highlighted.
Perhaps the most prominent feature of the congress was the religious diversity and the fact that it urged unity and cohesion among the many religious communities in Kerkeslokh. Previous congresses organized by UNDP were held in Anbar, Diyala, Nineveh, and Salah al-Din governorates between 2021 and 2022.
In 2020, UNDP launched a special five-year social cohesion program to promote stronger, more peaceful, and cohesive societies in Iraq.