DAMASCUS, Syria, OCT. 30, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Melkite patriarch of Antioch is calling on world leaders and the Arab League to rescue the Christians of Iraq.

Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Antioch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church launched an appeal Wednesday, recalling that Iraq is "home to Abraham, the father of faith in Judaism, Christianity and Islam" and that these religions are committed to common spiritual and humanitarian values.

He said he launched "this urgent appeal to the world: kings and presidents and spiritual and civil leaders, so they all work -- each from his position and responsibilities -- and also the League of Arab States and its mission to preserve the coexistence that characterizes this region of the world."

Patriarch Gregorios III urged the leaders to act quickly "to save the people of Iraq, with all its historical and religious and cultural heritage, from the risk of fragmentation to which it is exposed, especially after the discord began spreading its poison" on Mosul Christians.

A spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees told reporters last week that more than 13,000 Christians had fled Mosul during the previous two weeks, which is more than half of the total number of Christians living in the city.

Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi spoke of their plight on the most recent edition of "Octava Dies," saying that the Christians in the city are being targeted with a house-by-house "leave or die" campaign.

The patriarch's appeal continued: "Based on our spiritual responsibility, and the commitment to the fate of our people, we call upon the League of Arab States to convene an extraordinary meeting to discuss the danger of what is going on, and put an end to the violence and killings targeting the Christians in this land, and to reassure them and bring them back to their land and protect them, so that Christians feel they are not neglected and targeted, and are not victims of the work of evil and criminality, which we strongly deplore."