That the truth of the tragedy being experienced by Christians in the Middle East is listened to and at the same time what each member of the synod can do in their country to help them – this is what H.B. Louis Sako, the Patriarch of the Babylonia of the Chaldeans, expects from the next consistory of 20 October, which was already envisaged for certain canonisations and which, following the wishes of Pope Francis, will be an opportunity to discuss the grave crisis underway in the Middle East.
‘For us this is a great opportunity: a sign of the responsibility that the Church recognises as having, a responsibility to learn about, and act to help, those who suffer. There are those who say that this war will last for three years and there are others who say that it will last for ten years. The fact is that winter has now come and children will have to be helped to go to school; support will have to be given to the families of refugees who are homeless and have no heating. There are 120,000 Iraqi refugees, 120,000 people who are paying the price of violence that has no justification and is carried out verbally in the name of God, but in reality for economic reasons.
Your request for intervention last summer produced some effects. The United States of America and her allies are bombing Isis in Iraq. How do you assess this action?
‘The only exit route is dialogue, agreement between those who hold power, between the various groups. It is certainly the case that bombs from the air halt Isis a little, but they also worsen the situation in the country because they destroy houses and infrastructures, they kill defenceless civilians. What is needed is an intervention on the ground that arises from cooperation with the local government, with the Kurds. Only a coalition of this kind can liberate the villages from the Jihadists. In addition, there is a need for a long-term strategy which destroys the sick ideology that supports the action of these violent men. It is a danger for the whole world and not only for the Middle East. Indeed, it is perhaps more a danger for the West which does not know the language and the forms of Islamic action. Isis kills everything that it sees as not being in line with its idea of Islam. It is not of our time’.
But what can the Cardinals do after listening to you?
‘Awareness by all the Cardinals of the reality of the tragedy underway would already be a major achievement. But there is more: the Cardinals and the participants can in their turn spread appeals and apply a certain pressure on their governments to act to help and liberate the Christians’.
Many choose to flee abroad. Can this haemorrhaging be stopped?
‘Flight abroad is a solution, it is a partial solution but it is a solution. For the West it is easy to take in a hundred or a thousand refugees. The point is how to help those who want to stay in their homeland. Everyone speaks about democracy, about reforms, and about change. But first of all we need a new kind of education which eradicates the mentality of the Jihadist at its first sprouts. Only in this way, with a new education promoted by Muslim families in relation to the new generations, can one think of a future for Christians here. And also of a safe future for you in the West. Perhaps it is here that the jihadists are the most dangerous. Because radical Islamisation is their objective and you in the West do not know them, you do not know what they mean when they speak. We need a new education of the new generations which arises from knowing about each other the whole time – an indispensable factor’.