For the Iraqi nation and the Christian community the moment for "unity" has come, a "life and death matter", as the future of the nation is pondered. Is not it time to talk about "divisions of the country" or "independent entities", not as long as Mosul and villages of the Nineveh plain are occupied.
This is what the Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis Sako tells AsiaNews,
returning to Baghdad from the trip to Georgia where he met Pope Francis
and the leaders of the local Church - Catholic and Orthodox - praying
together for peace. A task and a mission for Iraq, Syria and the entire
In Tbilisi, the meeting between the Pope and the Assyrian-Chaldean
community in Georgia joined by one hundred faithful from the US, Canada,
and Iraq took place in San Simon Bar Sabbae church. "A very emotional
moment - says the Patriarch - and one of intense prayer." In the context
of the ceremony, the congregation sang Chaldean and Aramaic hymns and
prayers of vespers. In response, Francis recited a prayer composed for
this special occasion.
During his visit to Georgia Mar Sako also met with the Catholicos
Patriarch of All Georgia Elijah II. A "historic" moment, he says, with a
strong appeal "to unity, to the Church of the Apostles. He gifted us a
portrait of St. George, symbol of protection; we reciprocated with a
Chaldean cross, without the body of Christ as a symbol of resurrection".
Returning to the situation in Iraq, Chaldean primate says now it is time
to "preserve unity", "to battle Daesh" [Arabic acronym for the Islamic
State, ed] and "clean up the territories" and lay the foundations for
peace. Later it will be possible "to sit down and discuss the future."
However, if divisions or personal interests, Christian or not, prevail
"this will send a negative signal" to those at home and the
According to the Chaldean Patriarch Iraq and the Middle East suffer the
intrusion of different actors generating a "future full of ambiguity," –
such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United States and Russia – none of whom
have declared their real intentions. Amid this confusion, the one thing
that is clear is the desire of the Iraqi people "to stay together".
Despite this there are "others who do not want us to be autonomous, free
to decide our own future", the fate of "four million displaced in Iraq
alone". But also in Aleppo and Syria "they are playing a similar game."
"People live in anguish - he adds - while there is no vision for the
In recent weeks he has spoken several times of the formation of
Christian militias or the birth of a Christian enclave in the plain of
Nineveh, a project supported in certain US circles but recently rejected
by a vote by the Iraqi Parliament. "Right now - warns Mar Sako – it is
better to be careful and not talk about these issues. We must await
developments in Mosul and the Nineveh plain. There are already so many
wars and divisions between the various Iraqi groups, but the main thing
is to defend the principle of unity. "
What we are asking for, he adds, is to "liberate territories and ensure
the return of people to their homes." And then for "a United Nations
presence, perhaps in the form of UN blue helmets, to ensure the security
In a climate of uncertainty and fear, the recent Chaldean Synod in
Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, and the meeting with the Pope in Georgia have
returned unity given new life and new enthusiasm to the Chaldean Church
and the Christian community. "It was like the Upper Room – says Mar Sako
recalling the days of the Synod - in which there was an underlying
unity. Everyone spoke freely then we voted and made decisions based on
the majority. Decisions which then we all complied with, a sign of
cohesion. " We are "stronger than before," he warns, and this unity is
essential to keep the Church of the East alive not only among Chaldeans,
but also between the various Christian denominations, including
Catholics and Orthodox.
This peculiarity makes the Chaldean Church stronger "in the eyes of
the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government."
We are "the Christian authorities," explains Mar Sako, which has its own
identity "just like the Shiite and Sunni communities," and that always
works to "build" bridges.
"I have so much hope and I am optimistic - he concludes - because I saw
the reality of Georgia, which in the past has experienced the tragedy of
the war and is now a country that has made great progress. With peace
you can do everything, if there is peace you can think about the future.
" Even a papal visit to Iraq: "When I invited him to visit Iraq the
Pope replied: 'Let us hope!'."