The Vatican’s Secretary of State has warned that Iraq’s ancient Christian community is struggling for its very survival – and has made an urgent call for the rights of all minority groups to be respected.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, issued his stark warning yesterday at a conference in Rome organised by ACN. Speaking at the meeting about the future of Iraq’s Christians, Cardinal Parolin said: “We are all aware that the conflicts and tensions of recent years represent a risk, not only for the survival of Christians – but also for the very possibility that the Middle East can be a place of coexistence between peoples belonging to different religious and ethnic groups.”
His remarks come after a referendum on independence for Kurdistan, the region of northern Iraq where Christians found sanctuary following the Daesh (ISIS) occupation of the nearby Nineveh Plains.
Cardinal Parolin stressed that Pope Francis was personally concerned for the survival of Iraq’s ancient Christian community. He said: “From the outset, the Holy Father has followed with deep concern the tragedy of the thousands of families forced to abandon their own cities and villages due to the invasion of the so-called Islamic State, starting in June 2014…”
“The Holy See… has missed no opportunity to speak out on behalf of those Christians, reiterating on numerous occasions the necessity of facilitating their return and ensuring adequate measures of protection and respect for their rights.”
Cardinal Parolin thanked ACN for our help for displaced families who were driven from their homes, and our plans to rebuild destroyed Christians towns and villages in the region.
He said: “I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the support provided by Aid to the Church in Need in the three years since the ISIS invasion, which has enabled the many uprooted Christian families to endure this situation with dignity and in security. Your reconstruction project… is yet another sign of the concern you have shown, with a sense of urgency and with remarkable efficiency and organisation.”
He added: “The process of reconstruction started by [ACN], and the return of Christians to a degree of normality in their lives, should be the primary and urgent objective of our efforts. This will allow the Christian community in due course to face up to other challenges that await them, so that they can be fully and generously engaged in working for the common good of the entire nation.”
Also speaking at the conference was Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako of Baghdad who described the attacks by extremist Islamist groups on the Nineveh plain’s Christians as “genocide”.
He said: “The real reason behind this kind of discrimination is the hatred of the radical Muslim persecutors towards the Christians, which has driven them to wipe away our heritage, destroy our homes and even to remove us from the memory of Iraqi history.”