Chaldean patriarch strongly rejects the presence of any Iraqi armed movement
by Christians, according to a statement from his office.
In a strongly worded statement released Wednesday, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphaël I Sako expressed his opposition to the creation of such a Christian militia, and for the first time.
The issue emerged in the past few years in connection with the fight against ISIS, to free Mosul and the Nineveh Plain.
Instead of a Christian militia, the prelate wrote: “We encourage our youth to join the Iraqi official army and the federal police services, while those in [the] Kurdistan region of Iraq [should] join [Kurdish] Peshmerga forces.”
“We respect individual decisions to join IMIS or to get involved in politics,” the statement read, “but not to form a Christian ‘brigade’, since forming a Christian armed militia contradicts the Christian spirituality that calls for love, tolerance, forgiveness and peace.”
The idea a Christian militia to "defend" people in northern Iraq, especially in the Nineveh Plain where Christians are concentrated, has proven highly contentious.
During the fight against ISIS and its self-style caliphate, a Christian-dominated militia, the Babylon Brigades, was created, closely linked to IMIS.
This Christian militia eventually gave rise to the Babylon Movement (BM), a political party that did well in the May 2018 elections, winning two of the five seats reserved for Christians, which critics attribute to Shiite support.
One of the BM’s leaders is Rayan al-Kildani, a controversial figure also known as Rayan the Chaldean, who was recently targeted by US sanctions.
He is suspected of grabbing farmland and heading paramilitary groups who have prevented displaced families from returning to their homes in the Nineveh Plain.
Referring to a decree issued by Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi on July 1, Patriarch Sako wrote that the patriarchate “agrees with the guidelines of many political entities, and with our mission as Iraqi Christians in consolidating whatever [that] leads to harmonious coexistence on the ground” and “solidif[ies] the pillars of a strong government of law, citizenship and equality.”
In his statement, Patriarch Sako reiterated his support for the decree, which also limits “weapons to the state, strengthen[s] its institutions, and reinforce[s] national awareness among Iraqis, in terms of their national identity.”