IRAQ: Patriarch Younan III meets President Salih on tenth anniversary of bloody church attack, says more action needed to protect Christians

BAGHDAD – On the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist siege of the Syriac Catholic Our Lady of Deliverance Cathedral, October 31, 2010, His Holiness Mor Joseph Younan III, Patriarch of the Syriac Catholics of Antioch, met with Iraqi President Barham Salih at the Presidential Palace in Baghdad. The Patriarch was in town for the ordination of a Patriarchal Vicar for Basra and the Persian Golf and to commemorate the horrific terrorist act ten years ago.

The choice of date of the ordination seems not to be accidental but intended to send a message to the Iraqi leadership and the world that Christian Syriacs will not be scared away from their homeland Iraq.

According to the statement by the Syriac Catholic Patriarchate, His Holiness Mor Younan III, who reminded the Iraqi President of the heinous act of terrorism, emphasized the need to “continue the efforts to combat terrorism and extremist ideas that seek to undermine foundations and values of coexistence in the region and the world, to spread the culture of mutual acceptance, and to protecting the Christians of the East.”

Patriarch Joseph Younan III, offspring of survivors of the Sayfo Genocide of 1915 and born in Hassakeh, Syria, has been very critical in past comments on the abandonment by the world and international community of the Christians of the East; “The path of our cross has been going on for many years in Iraq, and today in Syria we continue to suffer from terrorist attacks, acts of violence, blind religious and sectarian fanaticism, and thus we are displaced, uprooted and annihilated. Our Christian people find no solution other than to leave their land and that of their fathers and grandfathers and emigrate.”

The Patriarch welcomed the Presidents’ reaffirmation of the importance of the role that the Christian Syriacs of the East play in the region in terms of historical heritage, and cultural and religious diversity. The President on his official Twitter stressed that only the combined effort of the people can eliminate Takfiri terrorist groups. He also stressed “the need to preserve the social fabric and stop the migration of Christians. And to continue all efforts to combat terrorism and extremist ideas.”

In a meeting with Barham President Salih earlier this month, Syriac Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Sako requested the President’s support to make Christmas a public holiday in Iraq. His Holiness Mar Louis Sako handed the President a draft legal bill urging for official public recognition of Christmas.

Most Christians in Iraq belong to the Suraye people or Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people, an ancient people in Mesopotamia. An estimated 300-400 thousand Suraye or Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians are believed to have remained in Iraq from the 1.4 to 1.6 million in the pre-Baath Regime era. The capital Baghdad alone had and estimated 500-600 thousand Suraye before 2003.