Patriarch Sako: Protection of Christians Must Come From State

Says Presence of Sectarian Militias Would «Destroy Iraq»

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Iraqi Christians have an absolute right to self-defense but that protection must come from the state, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako I has said.

Fides news agency, quoting Lebanese sources, said the Baghdad-based patriarch believes defense of the attacked is an absolute right, but only «the forces of the state should take charge of this defense». The creation of differentiated militia on ethno-religious basis «can destroy Iraq,” he said.

The patriarch was speaking at a meeting organized by the delegation of the patriarchs of the Eastern Churches that arrived on Wednesday in Erbil, capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The patriarchs had gathered to express their closeness to refugees from Mosul and other cities which have fallen under the control of the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate.

Patriarch Sako’s comments come after the President of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan, Masud Barzani, said he was willing to provide weapons to Christian volunteers to form self-defense militias with a mandate to defend their villages currently in the hands of the jihadists.

The Chaldean patriarch also added that in the present situation, speaking in constitutional terms, the proposal to establish an autonomous area in the Nineveh Plain for Christian populations has become possible and according to him «acceptable», adding that such a result is obtained «through dialogue and not through conflict».

The delegation of the patriarchs included Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai, the Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III, the Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III and Syrian Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II.

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