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Five Middle Eastern Patriarchs Visit North Iraq in Solidarity With Christians – no to sectarian militias

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From left: Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem II Karim, Patriarch Louis Rafael Sako, Patriarch Bechara Boutros AlRai, Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Youna, Patriarch Gregorius III Lahham. Photo from AINA

(AINA) — Five patriarchs of Middle Eastern Churches visited north Iraq yesterday to support the Assyrian Christians, who have been driven from their homes and villages by the Islamic State (ISIS) and whose religious institutions have been destroyed and occupied.

The Patriarchs were:

  • Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros AlRai
  • Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church Ignatius Ephrem II Karim
  • Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Rafael Sako
  • Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorius III Lahham
  • Syriac Catholic Patriarch Mor Ignatius Joseph III Youna

The delegation was flown to Arbel in a private jet donated by the former president of the Industrialists Association, Jacques Sarraf.

Accompanying the Patriarchs were Harith Shihab, member of the Islamic-Christian dialogue committee, Father Paul Karam, head of Caritas Lebanon, Monsignor Joseph AlBawary, Director of the Catholic Information Center and Father Abdo Abu Kasem.

The delegation was received at the airport by the KRG Minister of Interior Karim Sinjari, the Governor of Arbel Nozad Hadi and a number of officials.

The Delegation’s first stop was the city of Ankawa, where 70,000 Assyrians have sought refuge, swelling the city’s population to 100,000. The next stop was the headquarters of the Chaldean Diocese and Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese in Arbel, where the delegation was briefed on the situation of the refugees.

The mission of the Patriarchs is to assess the state of the refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh Plain and to formulate a plan to deliver aid, as well as pressure Western and Middle Eastern governments to commit to returning the refugees to their homes.

The Patriarchs offered prayers as they visited the refugees and together recited the Lord’s Prayer in Syriac (Aramaic), the language of Jesus Christ.

Patriarch AlRai said the Assyrian Christian refugees are the indigenous people and he does not call them a minority, because this is their land and they must return to it.

Absent from the delegation was the Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, His Holiness Dinkha IV, who could not travel because of ill health. -AINA

Erbil (Agenzia Fides) – The defense of the attacked is an absolute right. But only “the forces of the State should take charge of this defense”, while the creation of differentiated militia on ethno-religious basis “can destroy Iraq”.
This is how – according to Lebanese sources – the Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans Louis Raphael I expressed himself during his participation in the initiatives and meetings organized by the Delegation of the Patriarchs of the Eastern Churches that arrived on Wednesday, August 20 in Erbil, capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, to express their closeness to refugees from Mosul and other cities which have fallen under the control of the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate. On 18 August, the President of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan Masud Barzani said he was willing to provide weapons to Christian volunteers to form self-defense militias with a mandate to defend their villages currently in the hands of the jihadists. The Chaldean Patriarch also added that in the present situation, speaking in constitutional terms, the proposal to establish an autonomous area in the Nineveh Plain for Christian populations has become possible and according to him “acceptabl e”, adding that such result is obtained “through dialogue and not through conflict”.
The delegation of the Patriarchs currently on a visit to Iraq are, besides the Chaldean Patriarch, the Maronite Bechara Boutros Rai, the Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III, the Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III and Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 21/08/2014)

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