Cardinal Louis Sako hails KDP President Barzani’s efforts to protect Christians

When the Christians were displaced, President Masoud Barzani expressed his readiness to welcome them, the patriarch told reporters.
Cardinal Rapahel Louis Sako speaking to reporters in Erbil, Nov. 26, 2023. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Cardinal Rapahel Louis Sako speaking to reporters in Erbil, Nov. 26, 2023. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church Raphael Louis Sako on Sunday hailed the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) President Masoud Barzani’s efforts to protect Christians, particularly after the emergence of ISIS in Iraq in 2014. 

The patriarch’s remarks came during a presser in Erbil, where the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister of State for Minority Affairs.

When the Christians were displaced, President Masoud Barzani expressed his readiness to welcome them, the patriarch told reporters, recalling the Kurdish region's host of thousands of members of the faith when they fled their places of origin in Nineveh Plains after the ISIS attack. 

“[Barzani said], ‘We are one and live and die together,’ according to the clergyman, saying his community wants to hear the same from all, including “central Iraqi government”.

The religious leader also hailed the KRG’s existing Ministry for Minority Affairs, suggesting Baghdad should follow suit.

Sako relocated to Erbil in July after Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rasheed withdrew a presidential decree that had initially recognized him as the leader of the Chaldean Catholic Church and custodian of the church’s assets in Baghdad.

“In the eyes of the state, I lack the authority to administer ecclesiastical properties,” the 74-year-old cardinal told The Pillar in August on the decision.

He accused Rayan Al-Kildani, a Christian leader of an Iranian-backed militia group in the Nineveh Plains, of being behind the decision and “intimidating” him.

Al-Kildani and Sako have engaged in a war of words, accusing each other of exploiting the minority group, whose population has dramatically dwindled in Iraq.

The militia leader heads the 50th Brigade of the Shiite militias, known as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). The U.S. Treasury designated al-Kildani for “serious human rights abuses” on July 18, 2019.

Arriving in the Kurdistan Region in late July, Cardinal Sako expressed his gratitude to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for the support and warm greetings he had received. The top religious leader also hailed the peaceful coexistence in the Kurdistan Region.