Chaldean Patriarch recaps Christian plight in Iraq at prime minister's parley

(Photo: REUTERS / Stringer)Louis Raphael Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, speaks during a news conference in Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region, July 22, 2014.

The Chaldean Patriarch of Iraq has raised the continuing plight of Christians with Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi who has met with the top church officials.

The meeting took place as part of confidence-building measures with the Church and the government.

Chaldean Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael I Sako met with al-Abadi in the Green Zone in Baghdad on April 11 and both leaders expressed hope for "true reconciliation" among the different political forces in Iraq.

Both leaders stressed the importance of rebuilding trust in society, a report by said on April 13.

The goal of the unifying political forces, and the different ethnic and religious groups in Iraq should be "achieving security and stability," said Sako.

He was accompanied to the meeting by auxiliary bishops Shlemon Warduni and Basil Yaldo.

The discussions focused on Iraq, where some parts are still controlled by the Islamic State (IS), though government forces have said they are earnest in reclaiming territories that the extremists captured since heavy fighting began last year.

The government reclaimed Tikrit, known as the late strongman Saddam Hussein's hometown, in the past few weeks after the Iraqi military pressed forward with their offensive.

The military action forced militants to fall back, but destroying cultural property in the process.

As he welcomed the Chaldean delegation to his office, al-Abadi asked the patriarch about the situation of Christians in Baghdad, as well as the displaced people of Mosul and the Nineveh Plain, where IS forces have been operating.

Al-Abadi reiterated to the patriarch the importance of Christians in the fabric of Iraqi society, saying that despite being a minority in their population, they play a vital role in the country and in the "regional" culture.

The prime minister offered words of encouragement to Sako, saying that Christians in Iraq ought to stay in the country despite encountering "difficulties."

"There is no Iraq without Christians," al-Abadi said.

Sako expressed his gratitude to the prime minister. He told him that Christians in Iraq are committed to promoting "peaceful coexistence" in the country, as they had done before IS gained steam.

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