His Beatitude Cardinal Louis Raphaël Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, has written an article titled, "Emigration… a phenomenon of our time".
In his article he points out that emigration is one of current phenomena which needs to be studied thoroughly in order to help those who decide to leave their homeland overcome the ordeals that prompt them to take this decisive step. He adds that the emigrant Christians leave their countries of origin because they feel that they have been marginalized and alienated in their societies while suffering from trivial wars and conflicts as well as corruption, absence of democracy, and inequality as has been the case in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon in addition to the ongoing futile war between Ukraine and Russia.
Referring to the emigration of Iraqi Christians, he states that they are the indigenous people of this land and that they are closely associated with this land because it stands to be their mother and identity. He added that they played a major role in building the civilization of their society with their "fertile culture and civilization based on the 'commandment of love to your enemies' which Lord Jesus Christ commanded them. This instilled in them distinguished rules of behavior such as their openness and sincerity in work, respect for life, as well as free from the hatred and revenge because it is not compatible with their faith."
With reference to the Christian Iraqis who remained in their country of origin, Cardinal Sako states that they constitute a firm basis for "a reconciled and peaceful society as well as a firm background for common living based on harmony." He also urged the Iraqi government and the Church to thoroughly analyze the phenomenon of emigration and seriously deal with it through new legislations that provide an optimum atmosphere for a suitable environment conducive to good living which is the right of every person to enjoy in one's motherland. He also lamented the hardships experienced by the remaining Christians which include "violations involving their properties and job opportunities as well as negligence of their culture and history which is associated with enacting demographic changes in their villages, and occasionally offending their religion which shoves them into a state of hopelessness.
Cardinal Sako urged the establishment of civilian democratic state that instills equally among all its citizens on the basis of rights and cultures, regardless of religious affiliation, ethnicity or gender. Stressing that there is no real democracy without a strong state, he added that is not permissible to associate religion with politics because religion cannot produce political systems. He also stressed the need to instill human values based on ethics and the message of religions which entrench the vales of brotherhood, justice, love, dignity, and freedom.
In an earlier interview posted by the Arabic-language "Al-Arabi Al-Jadid" Cardinal Sako decried the prevailing situation of the Christian Iraqis, stating that "the main reason for the continued emigration of thousands of Christian families from Nineveh Plain and other areas in northern Iraq is attributed to the hegemony experienced by armed groups and the fact this area in bereft of reconstruction." Stressing that the Christian Iraqis do not feel safe in Iraq, Cardinal Sako noted that the Iraqi government had used media to highlight the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis, but failed to improve the living conditions of Christians where they are located.
Stressing that he does not hope to see the day when Iraq would lack its Christian component, he noted this is a possibility in light of the ongoing discrimination under way against Christians by various parties, including armed militias, corrupt parties, as well as due to the absence of services, lack of job opportunities and a the absence of clear vision for the future.
It is dolorous to note that the hemorrhaging of Christians from the Middle East, particularly from Iraq caused by wars and persecution, is proceeding at a high rate. According to reports, there were approximately 1.5 million Christians in Iraq before 2003, but estimates now range from 200,000 to 500,000. There are predictions that if the rate continues to drop as such, the region will be bereft of its Christian component, which eliminates a key factor of diversity as well as inflicts serious and irreversible damage.
These remarks expressed by Cardinal Sako draw a bleak image of the future of Christian Iraqis. His repeated warning against the accelerated emigration for Christian Iraqis set off alarm bells and necessitate expeditious actions in order to reverse the current trend by restoring Christians to their homeland while ensuring a bright and safe future. The Christians of Iraq are considered to be one of the oldest continuous Christian communities in the world. With Christianity in Iraq perilously close to extinction, immediate action is of prime importance to extricate the dwindling Christians from the bleak future awaiting them.
May the views expressed by Cardinal Sako regarding the emigration of Christian Iraqis be taken into consideration at the highest level by international organizations, governments, and peace-loving nations so that atmospheres conducive for the return of Christian Iraqis to their homeland would prevail and instill peace in this country.