Patriarch Louis Sako, the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad, is the latest Christian leader to ask Christians in the Middle East not to abandon their homelands despite threats from radical Islamic groups. He also slammed the countries who give preferential treatment to Christian refugees.
“It means that there is now a real danger that no Christians will remain in the Middle East, in Iraq, in Syria,” he told Vatican Insider.
Thousands of refugees have left Iraq and Syria in the past year, but the numbers grew significantly when the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) established their caliphate in the summer of 2014. The terrorists drive out Christian populations with threats of death.
“We do not stop anyone,” Sako admitted. “It would be unfair, as well as impossible. But we cannot force them to flee. Now the people criticize us. They want me to bring the planes, visas and that we find shelters in other countries. This impossible. A state cannot do it let alone the Church.”
“A Christian community that was born in these lands cannot organize exodus trips that will mark its extinction,” he added. “The choice of leaving we can respect as a personal choice, but we cannot instigate it.”
Recent reports stated many European countries only prefer Christian refugees. Cyprus announced they could take 300 migrants, but only want Christians since “it would be much easier for Christians to adjust to life” on the island. Yves Nicolin, mayor of French city Roanne, said he will only take Christian refugees “to avoid the possibility of taking in ‘disguised terrorists.’”
“The European countries must welcome those who really need it, without regard to religion,” declared Sako.
In early September, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios III asked young Christians in these war zones not to leave.
“Despite all your suffering, stay! Be patient! Don’t emigrate! Stay for the Church, your homeland, for Syria and its future! Stay! Do stay,” he said.
ISIS invaded Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in June 2014. It housed one of the largest Christian communities in the world where they lived peacefully with Muslims for over 2,000 years. But after the invasion, there are no Christians in the city. A month later, Andrew White, the vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq, told BBC Radio 4 that Christianity is coming to an end in the country.
“Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing,” he said. “We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off. The Christians are in grave danger. There are literally Christians living in the desert and on the street. They have nowhere to go.”
“Are we seeing the end of Christianity?” he continued. “We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near.”