The Chaldean Catholic Patriarch is appealing to the international community for action against ISIS’ expulsion of Christians in Mosul, deeming the situation as “21st century genocide.”
“It’s mass cleansing based on religion.” Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako said. “It is a shame that in the 21st century we have such behavior.”
Sako said Western countries and the United Nations must go beyond condemnation and take rectifying action.
“This is the responsibility of a nation like the United States that cherishes democracy, freedom of religion and freedom of conscious,” Sako said.
The patriarch cited his contacts in Mosul who say the area is now devoid of Christian presence following ISIS’ ultimatum earlier this month.
“It is tragic because that city was the nucleus of Christian presence for many centuries,” Sako said. “We have at least 25 churches in that city. All are abandoned. There’s no more prayer service, no more masses on Sundays in Mosul because there’s no clergy, no people there that are Christians.”
Sako said ISIS took advantage of “defenseless” Christians, unjustly driving them out of the region in an effort of “religious cleansing.”
“When [ISIS] writes the letter “n” [meaning Christian in Arabic] to single out [the homes of] Christian families, that means they are evaporating the city of its Christian population. It is mass evaporation. It’s a genocide of the 21st century.”
Many refugees fled to the nearby city Qaraqosh to seek asylum under the Kurdish government, which has promised to protect them by lining the city’s border with soldiers to repel ISIS.
But even this barrier is proving faulty as ISIS gains control of the city’s water and electricity sources. Sako said this conflict has cut the city off from other villages, making it difficult for families to find income.
“Lately we heard that the Kurdish government has stepped up to help them with some financial assistance to each family, but this is a very tough situation for them,” Sako said.
Sako noted that Christians must make clear to ISIS that they don’t have intentions to fight or govern, but that they have the right to peacefully live in the land of their “forefathers” as they have for the past 2,000 years.
To Sako, a permanent solution to sectarian conflicts is to follow the West and adopt a law that separates the government from religion. He said governments that forcibly impose a single religion on an entire population cannot be accepted in the 21st century.
“Let’s live together as full right citizens, as brothers and sisters and everyone will follow his or her own religion.”