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Church in Iraq faces catastrophic situation, Patriarch warns

 An Iraqi mother who fled recent fighting in the city of Tal Afar rocks her twin sons in the back of a pick-up truck.
An Iraqi mother who fled recent fighting in the city of Tal Afar rocks her twin sons in the back of a pick-up truck.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Catholic Patriarch of the Babylonians, Louis Raphael I Sako, issued a message to his flock July 17th that he called urgent, which hit the newswires yesterday. Patriarch Sako warned that the Church in Iraq is facing an unmitigated catastrophe if many Muslim Iraqis do not have a significant change of heart, asking them to peacefully live with their Christian neighbors “in the spirit of human brotherhood.” According to some reports, the cross atop the Mosul’s Syriac Orthodox cathedral has been removed in recent days. There is no word on whether ISIL authorities have insisted that the shahada (Islamic profession of faith) be recited at the building, which under Islamic law and custom would transform it into a mosque.

“We implore in particular our Iraqi brothers, asking them to reconsider and reflect upon the strategy they have adopted and demanding that they must respect innocent and weaponless people of all nationalities, religions, and sects,” Patriarch Sako said in his statement. The Patriarch was also keen to remind his flock that they are not alone in being persecuted, since ISIL has also been keen to force Shia Muslims out of their homes as well as Christians. Iraq has historically had a majority Shia population.

Patriarch Sako confirmed the story that has been circulated in recent days that the homes of Christians have been marked with the Arabic letter nun was painted on the doors of Christian homes, for “Nazarene,” or Christian. Shia residents have had the letter “ra” for “Rejecter” painted on their doors, the Patriarch apparently explained. “The only alternative for Christians is to abandon the city and their houses with only the clothes they are wearing, taking nothing else.”

The Patriarch said that for Christians to be discarded in the land of their birth betrays the reality that Christians and Muslims have coexisted for centuries. “They shared every sweet and bitter circumstance of life. Christian and Muslim blood has been mixed as it was shed in the defense of their rights and lands. Together they built a civilization, cities, and a heritage. It is truly unjust now to treat Christians by rejecting them and throwing them away, considering them as nothing.”