Iraqi church leader visists Sistani

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Azzaman, August 9, 2014

Iraq’s top Christian clergyman has paid a visit to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraqi Muslim Shiites top cleric, to brief him on the latest exodus of Iraqi Christians from their last remaining towns and villages in the Province of Nineveh.

Patriarch Louis Sako, the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, has issued repeated appeals to Iraqi, regional and international leaders to do something to protect his community.

His visit to Sistani comes as more than 100,000 more Iraqi Christian have fled their areas in the outskirts of Mosul, the capital of Nineveh Province, as militants of the Islamic State (IS) routed Kurdish militias who safeguarded their areas.

Sako said he found Sistani sympathetic and supportive of Iraqi Christians and other minorities as well as all Iraqis enduring hardships because of IS, which is also known as ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

The numbers of Christians in Iraq have dwindled to fewer than 500,000 while their count was in the range of 1.5 million prior to the 2003-U.S. invasion.

The majority of Iraqi Christians are Chaldean Catholic but there are groups belonging to other denominations.

Sako quoted Sistani as saying that he rejected any targeting of minorities in Iraq but at the same time he was aware that ‘terror’ does not discriminate on the basis of religion or sect.

IS’s latest advances north and west of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city which its militants overrun in June, have sent hundreds of thousands of Yazidis fleeing their ancestral areas.