News: World News
by Alexander Slavsky
Iraqi Patriarch Louis Sako to be awarded for raising awareness of persecuted Christians
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BAGHDAD (ChurchMilitant.com) – The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad has been named the recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with persecuted Christians in Iraq.
Primate Mar Louis Raphael Sako told AsiaNews that receiving the price “is not important” because it is the “symbolic value of the gesture” that keeps “alive the focus on the Iraqi people, on the Christian community … for the future of the country.”
L’Œuvre d’Orient, a French Catholic association committed to helping persecuted Christians, proposed his nomination in January which the Norwegian Nobel Committee accepted. Sako’s nomination received support from Christians and Muslims in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the world, especially in France where the primate of the Iraqi Church has worked with Catholic and non-Catholic religious leaders and nongovernmental organizations.
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“It’s nice to see that even the Muslims have supported my candidacy,” Sako commented. “In fact, I would say that they have done it with greater vigor, and this is even more important. It represents a sign of closeness and opens Iraq’s doors to progress and democracy,” said Sako.
Last week, the patriarch arranged an inter-faith meeting that included Muslims and Christians in the Chaldean parish of St. Joseph in Karrada. These religious leaders discussed religious extremism and its threat to the security of Iraq and its people while offering solutions to ensure the safety of future generations.
Sako was installed as the Chaldean patriarch in 2013 where he has spoken out against the exodus of Iraqi Christians, entreating the central government and local authorities to help ensure a peaceful future in his country.
Archbishop Yousif Thoma Mirkis of Kirkuk, Iraq, insisted that “our hope is that [Sako’s] candidacy will run its course and end in a positive outcome.”
Mirkis noted that Sako’s nomination represents “a recognition not only for him personally but for all the Christians of Iraq and the Middle East who, in the past few years, have fought hard, stood firm and yet remained non-violent whilst seeking peace, human rights, coexistence and development in the country.”
His Excellency explained this year’s prize recipient remembers “the martyrs of the Chaldean Church, people like [Abp. Paulos Faraj] Rahho [of Mosul, Iraq] and others, priests and lay people, who sacrificed their lives for their faith.”
Since the return of the first Iraqi Catholic family in 2017, Sako has been urging Iraqi Christians to either remain in Iraq or return to keep the Faith alive in the country, remarking, “a Christian community that was born in these lands cannot organize exodus trips that will mark its extinction.”
The patriarch observed in 2014 that “if the situation does not change” for Christians in Iraq, “the whole world take responsibility [for] a slow genocide of an entire component of Iraqi society and its age-old culture. ISIS tries to erase all traces,” said Sako.
Sako’s nomination for the prize according to Mirkis “highlight[s] the sacrifices of an ancient community that chose to remain in its own land despite persecution, the latest being that of Daesh (Islamic State) which forced hundreds of thousands of families to flee, convert or be killed.”