BAGHDAD—In a strongly-worded statement addressed to the Iraqi government and Parliament, the leader of the Chaldean Church, Patriarch Louis Sako I—writing as President of the Assembly of the Catholic Bishops in Iraq—called on his country’s leaders to do their utmost to defeat “extremist groups that wear religious habits [whose] use of violence to extend their control are a danger to all.”
The thinly veiled reference to ISIS came in a letter dated Aug. 6, 2015, exactly one year after more than 120,000 Christians fled the Nineveh Plane after ISIS’ capture of Qaraqosh, capital of Iraq’s Christian heartland, coming just two months after the group’s sacking of Mosul.
Christians and Yezidis, charged the Patriarch—who also referred to “thousands of dead Iraqi Muslims—find their land “occupied and their heritage threatened with extinction.”
Rather than calling for a military solution for the defeat of ISIS and other extremist groups plaguing Iraq, Patriarch Sako called on legislators to earnestly and energetically embark on a process of “national and political reconciliation” as the foundation of the “common citizenship” of all of Iraq’s ethnicities and religious groups. Such a reconciliation would also produce a “reconciliation with God.”
“The authentic basis for reconciliation is loyalty to Iraq—the united homeland of the whole people, and not just for individual persons or groups,” the prelate said, with all citizens ‘giving priority to the common good.”
On a practical level, the Patriarch said that the process of reconciliation “requires a review of the existing institutions and their relevance to our time.” Iraq, he stressed, needs to become a “strong modern civil state that is sustainable and representative of the best and most realistic ideals of its people.”
The fruits of genuine reform, the Patriarch suggested, would be a stronger economy that “resolves unemployment and poverty;” “new education” and a “constructive media;” and “restoring the role of the middle class” to ensure “social and economic mobility.”
He also called for a “religious discourse” that “should contribute to the development and stability of society, and direct it toward its highest values.” To make that possible, the Patriarch added, strict laws and their enforcement should deter “contempt of religion and its holy sites, and forms of discrimination, spreading hatred and division.”
Patriarch Sako’s statement was made available to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. Full text attached.