The rising in migration of Christians today in Iraq is very worrying and frightening. A year and a few months ago I received the presidency of the Chaldean Church and visited most of the cities, and from the depth of our reality I hit the alarm bells and declare that we are a ‘Ruined Church’. And, if the situation continues like this, then 10 years later our number will be only a few thousand! An example on the situation: Few days ago I visited the city of Hilla, where in the 1990s 287 Christian families lived there, and currently there are only 21 families!
In Baghdad, there are 21 opened Chaldean parishes, some other have been closed or merged. In the Church of the Ascension, Al-Mashtal, for example, there were about 5,000 families and over 240 students preparing for their First Holy Communion before the regime's fall. Today, 25 April 2014, I celebrated in this church the Holy Mass for First Holy Communion of 13 students only!
(Funeral of Christians killed in 2010 church bombing)
Immigration also exists in the secured province of Kurdistan.
Therefore I invite everyone to pay attention to this disaster and to study the causes of emigration of Christians from their motherland, find solutions and put an end to it.
The successive wars and conflicts for decades, the poor quality of service and social climate that was caused by the deterioration of security after the fall of the regime in 2003, growing religious militancy, threat messages they receive, the seizure of their property, unemployment, misguided policy of some Western countries and encouraging the migration of Christians, the absence of a clear vision within Christians and Muslims to live a better life together, the feeling of Christian that their role and their place in their country is in decline, as well as the hot situation in the region. And striking that what happens in Iraq now gets in Syria and might withdraw to other countries!
Practically, government authorities bear part of the responsibility of this migration for failing to restore security and stability. Christians are “Purebreds” who deserve all the respect and protection of their rights, their freedom and their dignity. I implore them to work for peace and seek to promote a culture of non-violence and acceptance of others and respect them through all available means, such as media and the curricula in schools and universities and the revision of laws, especially the ones related to ‘civil identity’, and encourage the return of some who left for neighbouring countries by providing them with housing, jobs and schools. This matter is not difficult to the Government especially that the numbers are not that many.
I would like also to address Muslim clerics and Christians to intensify efforts on the ground to maintain national cohesion, and remove prejudices. Let us stand before our humanity to have freedom and reconciliation with ourselves and with our brother, and together issue a joint statement denying all forms of violence, mistrust and considering others as “Infidels”, and calls for peace and brotherhood among the people. I remind you about the excellent relations between Christians and Muslims at the dawn of Islam, how the Christian believer was an example for the Muslim and a shelter during persecution (Al-Nagashi), and how the Quran urge Muslims to relate with Christians through compassionate bonds, and if some of them complain, do not circulate, especially the Christians today are not of the seventh century Christians!
Today we need a pragmatic speech that encourages us to live together in love and joy and happiness. Our own immigration impoverish our fellow Muslims, and our survival and continuity is an Islamic interest before being a Christian one. We, with our skills and talents, we can offer a lot and can be a bridge between the West and Islam.
(Guard at Baghdad church)
They need to review their plans properly to preserve the diversity of cultures in our region, and act on establishing peace and security. Democracy and change comes through upbringing and education rather than through conflict. Intervention by the West in the region did not solve the problems of those countries, but on the contrary, produced more chaos and conflict. Honestly, 1,400 years of Islam could not uproot us from our land and our churches, while the policies of the West has scattered us and distributed us all around the world.
As well as the Western Churches must stretch a helping hand to improve our regions and create some development projects, for example in the agriculture and education sectors and health services, and create jobs for the inhabitants of these regions (villages).
And in conclusion, we wonder: Is it imperative for men and women, who built a glorious past, that every trace of them disappear, may God forbid, from Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the land of their ancestors.
Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis I Sako of Babylon leads the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq. He was elected in February 2013.