A Syriac Catholic and two Syriac Orthodox prelates demand again a protected area for Christians in northern Iraq, with administrative autonomy and international protection. This position does not represent the view of Patriarch Sako. Chaldeans and the Iraqi Church call for upholding Iraq’s territorial unity against the ghetto trap.
Baghdad (AsiaNews) – The Chaldean Church has taken a clear stand without any room for misunderstanding against a proposal made by three Syriac (Catholic and Orthodox) prelates in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain to set up an area for Iraq’s Christian minority to protect itself from attacks and violence.
For Chaldean leaders, such an idea does not represent the views of the Chaldean Patriarchate and the Iraqi Church, which stand strongly behind the country’s unity and territorial integrity against the notion of a Christian enclave in northern Iraq, as the patriarch himself had told AsiaNews not long ago.
In a statement, Mgr Shlemon Warduni, auxiliary bishop of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldean Catholic Church, points out that the recent statements "do not represent our vision" and "do not reflect our position". Chaldeans, the prelate added, "are committed" to supporting the country’s unity as reiterated recently by Mar Sako "on the official patriarchal website".
A few days ago, three bishops in northern Iraq – a Syriac Catholic and two Syriac Orthodox – issued a statement calling for the creation of a protected area for Christians on the Nineveh plain. Such area should be placed under international protection, under the aegis of the United Nations, to provide security for Iraq’s Christian minority from religious persecution and violence.
The prelates behind the proposal are the Syriac Catholic bishop of Mosul Boutros Moshe, Syriac Orthodox Bishop Mar Nicodemus Daud Matti Sharaf and Mar Timotheos Musa al-Shamany, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Bartellah.
For the three prelates, setting up a "protected" area is essential to protect the rights of Christians and avoid a repeat of what happened in the summer of 2014 when the Iraqi government and the Iraqi army allowed the Islamic State (IS) group to seize quickly Mosul and much of Nineveh Plain.
IS chased Christians from their homes and killed those who opposed them. Hundreds of thousands of people abandoned their property to the “Caliphate" forces, finding refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan or salvation abroad. The flight further reduced the Christian presence in Iraq, already halved by the 2003 US invasion.
Nearly three years later, Iraqi and Kurdish forces, supported by US air strikes, appear to be on the eve of regaining control of the area, but the threat of jihadi groups remains.
For the three Syriac bishops The demand to turn the Nineveh Plain into a Christian enclave includes the right to administrative autonomy. However, the Iraqi Church and the Chaldean Patriarchate led by Louis Raphael Sako are decidedly against the proposal.
When he was archbishop of Kirkuk, the patriarch opposed to the "illusion" of a "Christian ghetto". Back in 2007, the Chaldean primate, like the Vatican, described the idea of a Christian enclave as a trap, calling it a risky proposition. For him, Iraq’s problem was fundamentalism, not any clash of civilisations.