Archbishop Sako: The situation of the Christians in Iraq is a tragedy

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Archbishop Sako: “The situation of the Christians in Iraq is a tragedy”

Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk has warned that Christianity may soon disappear in Iraq. Christians in this country have suffered heavily over the past five years, he said, during a recent press conference called at the request of the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) and the organisations Christian Solidarity International, Austria and “Pro Oriente”. During this period, he said, a total of 750 Christians had been murdered, including the Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho.

“Some 200,000 Christians have left the country. This is a tragedy for us” said Archbishop Sako. He appealed for support for the Christian community, so that they can remain in Iraq or return to their country.

(Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk)

During the press conference, Archbishop Sako called on the international community to show solidarity with the Christians in Iraq and to help both the refugees and the Christians who have remained in Iraq. The mass emigration of Christians, many of whom are now living in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, is “a great challenge for the Church” he said. Numerous families have also fled to small towns in northern Iraq, where there is virtually no employment. Archbishop Sako thanked ACN and other organisations like Christian Solidarity International in Austria and Pro Oriente for the active help they are supplying through their projects there. “This is helping the Christians to remain there, despite their difficult situation”, he remarked.

At the same time the Archbishop also called for the world to exercise more political pressure on Iraq. It was “a scandal”, he said, that the human rights of Christians in Iraq were being ignored, for they too were full citizens of the country. He recalled that Christians have been living in the country for 2,000 years and that if they were finally expelled, an important part of the culture and history of Iraq would likewise be lost.

The Christians have not yet completely given up hope, however, he added. “We have many problems, but we also have great hope. We are not afraid, but rather than we want to be able to live together with the Muslims in Iraq in peace”. Archbishop Sako expressed the conviction that a dialogue with the Muslims was still possible; however “not a theological dialogue, but a ‘dialogue of life'”, he added. At the same time though, it was important, he said, that the Muslims should come to grips from the perspective of their own religion with the new concept of the “responsible freedom” of man. The Muslims should find an interpretation of the Koran for the present time, he said. Instead “the Muslims are living as though in the 7th Century, and that is a problem”.

Equally problematic, he said, was the fact that many Iraqis simply equate the US troops — who many people believe had come to Iraq to fight against Islam — with the Christians. Nonetheless, there is concern among Christians at the proposed withdrawal of US troops, Archbishop Sako stated. Even now the lack of security in the country was the gravest problem, he said. The Iraqi army and police were not yet strong enough to take over. “Under Saddam’s regime we had security but no freedom. Today we have freedom, but the problem is security”.

For further information please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 6245 Blacktown DC NSW 2148. Web: