Iraq’s most senior Christian leader has declared that the US and the EU have a moral obligation to flush out jihadist forces from the Nineveh plains and enable communities to return to their ancestral homes. In a statement on Wednesday, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad calls on the US, European countries and Arab nations to join forces and reclaim ancient communities in Nineveh from Islamist fighters.
He said outside intervention was necessary because the Iraq government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government lacked the resources to defeat the Islamic State, formerly ISIS, who last week seized towns and villages in Nineveh.
In his statement, Patriarch Sako said: “…the United States of America, due to their prior involvement in Iraq, the European Union and the league of Arab countries have the responsibility to act quickly for a solution. They must clear the Nineveh plain from all the elements of jihadist warriors and help these displaced families return to their ancestral villages… through an active and effective international campaign until the central Government and the Regional Government of Kurdistan become effective.”
He said that unless the international community stepped up action, it would bear responsibility if – as widely feared – the Islamic State exterminates Christians and other religious minorities.
He said: “If the situation does not change, the whole world should take responsibility [for] a slow genocide of an entire component of Iraqi society and its age-old culture. ISIS tries to erase all traces.”
The Patriarch’s statement – which comes with the support of bishops from Mosul – was sent to Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians.
The charity’s International Executive President, Baron Johannes Heereman, arrived in Erbil this morning accompanied by ACN’s Director of Projects, Regina Lynch, and Deputy Communications Director, Maria Lozano.
Since the crisis broke on 10 June when the jihadists seized Mosul, Aid to the Church in Need has provided £160,000 (€200,000) in emergency aid to northern Iraq, of which half was announced earlier this week.
In his message, Patriarch Sako highlighted the scale of the crisis facing more than 100,000 people who fled 13 villages in Nineveh for towns and villages further north. He said vast numbers of displaced people “have been trying to survive in parks and public places for the past seven days”.
The Patriarch added: “From a spiritual and humanitarian point of view, the present circumstances for these exiled people are not acceptable while the suffering increases and the international efforts to alleviate their pain are insufficient.”
Patriarch Sako reiterated concerns about migration of Christians, amid warnings from a number of bishops from the region that the survival of one of the world’s oldest Church communities could be close to extinction.