Church leaders argue over whether Iraq Christians should flee or stay amid ISIS genocide

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Chiqui Guyjoco
Church leaders argue whether the surviving Chaldean Christians should remain or abandon their ancestral grounds in the face of serious extinction by the Islamic State terrorist group.
According to Fox News, the faction of Bishop Sarhad Jammo advocates for the resettlement of the Chaldean Christian communities in Iraq and Syria while the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad, Patriarch Louis Sako, insists that exodus should not be an option.
(REUTERS/ Thaier Al-Sudani)Iraqi Christians pray during a mass on Christmas eve at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Baghdad December 24, 2014.

“We wanted to ensure that people who wanted to leave had the means to do so, but we also supported those who wished to stay,” Mark Arabo, the American-Chaldean community’s national spokesperson and founder of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation in California, told the media outlet.

Arabo disagreed with the Patriarch’s contention that Christians should “live and die in the place where God calls us.” He also defended the Iraqi priests who have since fled to the U.S. for safety and demanded by the Baghdad Patriarch to return or be excommunicated.

“You cannot preserve a culture when the people are being systematically exterminated,” said Arabo. “During genocide, politics must be an afterthought to the lives of Christian families.”

On the other hand, Patriarch Sako said that leaving is a personal choice but the religious leaders should not initiate it.

“A Christian community that was born in these lands cannot organize exodus trips that will mark its distinction,” he told the Vatican Insider, as reported by Fox News.

The Maronite Catholic Bishops echoed Patriarch Sako’s stance as they urged the Christians in Middle East to co-exist with Muslims “in a climate of freedom, democracy and respect of diversity.”

Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III also lamented the Christians’ exodus in Syria and likened it to a “tsunami.”

Iraqi Christians face serious threats of extinction as the population dropped drastically to under 250,000 today from 1.4 million in 2003 before the U.S. invaded the country to topple former strongman Saddam Hussein.

The situation exacerbated two years ago when the Islamic State terrorist group seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria. It established its Caliphate in the areas and committed atrocious crimes against the religious minorities.