Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako denounced the “deliberate and humiliating campaign” of the Babylon Brigade – a pro-Iranian Christian militia – and announced that it will relocate to a monastery in Iraqi Kurdistan. After urging Christians to maintain their national identity, the faithful in some cities organized demonstrations in their support. According to experts, it is an attempt to undermine the neutrality of the Christian community in the midst of Iraqi political chaos.
Baghdad () – The highest authority of the Iraqi Church, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, had to leave his patriarchal seat in Baghdad. He decided to move to a monastery in Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, with a stopover in Istanbul. The decision is a direct consequence of the “deliberate and humiliating campaign” against the Chaldean patriarch carried out by the Babylon Brigades, a pro-Iranian Christian militia. A persecution that is added to the “decision of the president to annul the decree”, a fact that is “unprecedented in the history of Iraq,” Sako said in a note published in Arabic and English on the patriarchy’s website.
Indeed, a few days ago, the President of the Republic of Iraq, Abdul Latif Rashid, annulled a decree which can well be defined as the “institutional recognition” of the position of the Patriarch. This is decree 147, issued by the former head of state Jalal Talabani on July 10, 2013, which sanctioned the pontifical appointment of the cardinal as head of the Chaldean Church “in Iraq and in the world” and therefore “responsible for the property of the Church”.
According to various sources and according to Sako’s statements in said note, the Church’s assets have been in the crosshairs of Rayan al-Kildani (“the Chaldean”), the self-styled Christian leader leading the Brigades for some time now. of Babylon. “I have made this decision so that the protector of the Constitution and the beautiful Iraqi heritage fulfill the wish of the Babylon Brigades to promulgate a decree by which Rayan Salem Doda is appointed as custodian of the properties of the Church” explained the Cardinal Sako. In addition, “several positions in the administration of the patriarchate will also go to relatives of the “Chaldean”, added the prelate. “It is unfortunate that in Iraq we are living in the midst of a vast web of vested interests, narrow factionalism and hypocrisy. This has produced unprecedented political, national and moral chaos that is becoming more and more entrenched,” Cardinal Sako continued, urging Christians to keep faith in God and in their national identity until this “storm has passed, with God’s help”.
The Iraqi government’s decision deprives the patriarch of his immunity as a religious leader and of the right to represent the faithful. For its part, the Christian battalion enjoys representation in Parliament. According to the London-based Arabic daily Al-Arab, al-Kildani seeks to include the Christian issue in his political agenda and put it “at the service of the militias that control Iraq, behind which is Iran.” A position very different from that of the patriarch, who has always tried to “preserve the independence” of the Chaldean Christian community. According to the governor of Wasit, Muhammad Jamil al-Mayahi, Cardinal Sako “is a symbol of unity and brotherhood. Seeing him leave Baghdad,” he added, “is a loss for all of us.”
Iraqi Christians held demonstrations in support of the Chaldean patriarch in the cities of Karamlesh and Erbil. “The entire Christian community in Iraq is under threat, and the Chaldean and Syrian Assyrians have come together to affirm their support for the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church,” declared a group of various associations, including the Assyrian Democratic Movement, the Syrian People’s Council Chaldean, the Betnahrain Patriotic Union, the Sons of Nahrain Party and the Assyrian Patriotic Party.