By Spc. Kandi Huggins 1st Advise and Assist Task Force Public Affairs 1st Infantry Division, U.S. Division-NorthJuly 28, 2011
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE WARRIOR, Iraq " The Society for Threatened Peoples, a German human rights organization, hosted a conference on “Living Together” at the Chaldean Cathedral’s Visitor Center in Kirkuk, Iraq, July 18.
Kirkuk community leaders gathered at the conference to express their concerns and offer an outlet for acceptable solutions addressing ethnic diversity in the city.
Chaplain (Maj.) Peter Dissmore, brigade chaplain, 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, 1st Infantry Division, attended the conference as a representative of “Devil” Brigade.
“I found it significant that the many groups represented in Kirkuk were present to share their views on how they can live together peaceably in Kirkuk,” said Dissmore. “It was beneficial to hear speeches from representatives of the Chaldean Catholic Church, a Kurdish Muslim, a Muslim Arab, and a Muslim Turkoman.”
Dissmore, a resident of Manhattan, Kan., said he attended the conference to observe the dialogue from a religious perspective.
Although the mission of U.S. forces has focused on enhancing Iraqi Security Forces through training and missions, Dissmore said the U.S. forces’ mission indirectly improves the relationships between the various ethnic groups.
“This shows the importance of our mission, training the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police to provide that security so they can build a prosperous society,” said Dissmore.
Various members of the government also spoke, showing the desire to work together in peace, continued Dissmore, with one Sheik emphasizing the need for security in order to accomplish the other objectives.
During the conference, local leaders emphasized the common ethnic roots Kirkuk’s residents have developed through intermarriage between the groups and how, as a people, that unity allows the region to grow.
“Kirkuk is wealthy not just with oil, but with the diversity of its people,” said Dr. Abdul Khalifa, a specialist in psychological community relations. “The Kurdistan region has solved its problems by establishing good relationships with various communities of people, and Kirkuk must do the same. No one group is good or bad, rather all groups have both good and bad individuals within them.”
Overall, Dissmore said the conference was a success and looks forward to seeing how the people of Iraq grow and prosper together.
“It was beneficial for me to be able to encourage the Iraqis to continue the positive dialogue and to encourage our Soldiers that we are making a difference in Kirkuk as the people work toward a better society,” Dissmore said.