The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Archbishop Louis Raphael Sako is the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad and Patriarch of Babylon. This is adapted from his speech to a Rome conference on “Christianity and Freedom,” sponsored by Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project.
By Archbishop Louis Raphael Sako
For almost two millennia Christian communities have lived in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. These groups have contributed economically, politically, and intellectually, and have helped shape their respective cultures. Unfortunately, in the 21st century Middle Eastern Christians are being severely persecuted. When they have the means, many are fleeing the region.
This exodus and its causes, largely ignored in the West, constitute a growing crisis with both humanitarian and security implications. In most of these countries, Islamist extremists see Christians as an obstacle to their plans. Some nations, dominated by extremist ideas, do not want so-called “Arab Spring” democracy. Freedom and pluralism are dangerous to them and their goals.
Unfortunately, some in the West are encouraging the emigration of Christians. Each month families in good economic situations leave for good. Many young Christians, especially those who are well educated, are fleeing. For example, the United Nations Committee for Refugees recently estimated that 850,000 Iraqi Christians have left since 2003. This is an immense loss for those who stay, as well as for Iraqi culture and politics.