Patriarch Louis Sako, leader of the Iraqi Christian Chaldean Catholic Church, has attacked the United States as “indirectly responsible” for the plight of Christians in that nation at the hands of the violent jihadist group the Islamic State. In a visit to Beirut to call attention to the ethnic cleansing of Christians in Iraq, Patriarch Sako called for further aid in protecting Iraqi Christians from the jihadist threat.
“[The U.S.] said it would ensure democracy and the well-being of the people. But 10 years have passed, and, on the contrary, we have gone backward,” Patriarch Sako said in a statement, according to the Assyrian International News Agency. The religious leader noted that more than half of the Christian population of Iraq has been displaced in the last decade, and only an estimated 400,000 Christians remain in the nation.
Patriarch Sako has had harsh words for the West’s response to Islamic State military victories in the past as well, telling reporters in a statement last month that “the West watched us, and it seemed they have ignored our suffering. But we will not leave our land, whatever the sacrifices.” In a letter published by Breitbart News in July, Patriarch Sako called for international intervention to save Iraq’s Christians, and pled with Muslim leaders to ally with persecuted Christians. “Should this direction continue to be pursued, Iraq will come face to face with human, civil, and historic catastrophe,” he warned.
Christians, along with northern Iraq’s Yazidi minority, have been ethnically cleansed out of areas controlled by Islamic State fighters. The Islamic State captured the city of Mosul in July, the second largest city in Iraq and home to one of the oldest populations of Christians in the world. Upon seizing the city, Islamic State jihadists demanded Christians give up all their personal belongings, convert to Islam, and pay the jizya, or infidel’s tax. Those who refused would be killed, or forced to leave their homes.
It is believed that no Christians remain living in Mosul currently, for the first time since the birth of Christianity. “There is not a single Christian family left in Mosul… The last one was a disabled Christian woman. She stayed because she could not get out,” said one Christian Iraqi who managed to escape. “They came to her and said you have to get out and if you don’t we will cut off your head with a sword. That was the last family.”
Many of those who fled Mosul left with no money or resources with which to find food and water. Many are believed to have fled to non-ISIS controlled areas in the region, though fear an expansion by the jihadist group could force them once again to flee.