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Iraq after ISIS: Christians can decide for themselves

Michael Swan-cc

Woman outside home marked with "nun," Arabic letter for "Nazarene," or Christian

John Burger - published on 09/08/16 - updated on 06/08/17

Chaldean patriarch Sako speaks out on eve of Mosul invasion

Christians in Iraq should be able to decide for themselves whether to live under the central government in Baghdad or some other arrangement, once the jihadists of the Islamic State group are overthrown, the patriarch of the Chaldean Church said.

Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, and the nearby Nineveh Plain have been home to Christians in the country for centuries, and Mosul’s hoped-for liberation from the Islamic State might hold a glimmer of hope for Christians, said Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, leader of the Chaldean Church. But it will take time to rebuild trust with other ethnic and religious groups of the region, he told Fides news agency. Otherwise, “the hemorrhage outflow of migration will continue, even from safe areas.”

France said on Tuesday it was deploying artillery to Iraq and readying its aircraft carrier for deployment to reinforce foreign military support for the Iraqi army’s expected push to recapture Mosul, the de facto capital of Islamic State in Iraq, Reuters reported.

The Iraqi army and its elite units have gradually taken up positions around the city, the news agency said.

Meanwhile, Turkey and the United States may be collaborating to take back the Syrian city of Raqqa, which the Islamic State has held and considered its “capital” for several years.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested Wednesday that he and the US are ready to drive ISIS from Raqqa, the BBC reported. Erdogan said US President Barack Obama floated the idea of joint action against the militants when they met at the G20 summit in China.

He said Turkey would have “no problem” with such action, the news outlet said.

While the Christian majority in the Nineveh Plain could become “self-administrative,” Patriarch Sako said, inhabitants of the area should have a chance to vote on whether they want to remain under the central government in Baghdad or if they prefer to be part of the autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan or a Sunni state.

In a message to Fides, the patriarch also emphasizes that since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime a real consolidation process of democratic foundations has not been inaugurated, and it has not even begun “putting the right person in the right place, based on qualifications and not favoritism.”

Since then he said, the number of Christians in Iraq has fallen sharply. The patriarch questions the future of the region after the defeat of ISIS and says that under a “pre-arranged plan to secure the political structure of Iraq,” Christians and other minorities are not guaranteed the conditions that ensure at least the security and continuity of presence.

“Maybe one could treasure the widespread sympathy generated from their suffering,” but to do this one must first “put aside divisions and maintain unity, cohesion and cooperation.”

Instead, he said, there are “political hunters” trying to use Christians “to obtain certain” advantages.

According to the patriarch, “Christians are likely to become a token of exchange” for the stability and the future structure of the region.

IraqIslamist Militants
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