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Patriarch Sako Calls for Withdrawal of Sectarian Militias From the Nineveh Plain
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Iraqi Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, calls on the government in Baghdad "to assume its national and legal responsibilities by adopting practical and clear measures to ensure justice for Christians". He does so in a long speech containing "observations" that contribute to the "understanding" of the many factors that negatively affect the situation of Christian communities in Iraq. Christians, said the Chaldean Patriarch, "are an essential part of the diverse cultural, social, national and religious fabric of Iraq".

The land of today's Iraq existed long before "the Muslims arrived there from the Arabian Peninsula in the mid-7th century ", "rich in monasteries, churches and schools." The Christians "welcomed the Muslims and opened their schools, cultural centers and hospitals." There were Christian builders "who built many mosques, especially in Mosul." And the praise of Christians can be found in several Suras of the Koran. More recently, Patriarch Sako admits, "Iraqi Christians have paid a heavy price in the historic period following the second Gulf War and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime following the US-led military intervention in the last two decades."

Related: Feud Between Chaldean Patriarch and Iraq's President Reinforces Islamic Status of Minority Groups

In a short historical excursus, the Patriarch particularly recalled the flight of around 120,000 Christians from Mosul and the cities of the Nineveh Plain between June and August 2014 from the advancing militias of the Islamic State (IS). Starting from 2017, after the defeat of the Islamic State jihadists, the Patriarch said, the government "offered nothing" to Christians and gave them the choice "to emigrate or face their fate as if they were strangers in the country".

The Patriarch directly refers to the "control of armed militias over the cities of the Nineveh plain" and in particular to the militias of the "Babylon Movement", led by Rayan al Kildani (Rayan the Chaldean). Under pressure from the "Babylon Movement, which dominated the seats in Parliament reserved for Christians - said the Patriarch - the President of the Republic, Abdul Latif Rashid, repealed Decree 147, a measure issued by his predecessor Jalal Talabani on July 10, 2013, which recognized the Chaldean Patriarch as "responsible for the property" of the country's largest Christian community.

The political leader of the Babylon Movement, said Cardinal Sako, is trying to present "the conflict between him and the Chaldean Church" as "an internal conflict between the Churches, but that is not possible, because the Chaldean Church is aware of this, as well most churches". In his speech, the Patriarch calls for the withdrawal of the militias - including those belonging to the Babylon movement - from the Nineveh Plain. And their replacement by the forces of the army and the federal police.

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