Assyrian leaders concerned after call not to arm Christian militias in fight against ISIS by Chaldean Patriarch

Assyrian leaders have expressed concern over a Chaldean patriarch's call last week not to support Christian militias fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Middle East.

Westerners who have joined the Iraqi Christian militia Dwekh Nawsha to fight against Islamic State militants sit together at the office of the Assyrian political party in Dohuk, northern Iraq February 13, 2015. | Reuters/Ari Jalal

After news about a U.S. defense spending bill that aims to support Christian anti-ISIS forces in Iraq surfaced, Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako released a statement saying the move is a bad idea. He said the self-branded Christian militias are nothing but politicized groups and individuals who desperately need money, Agenzia Fides reports.

The Chaldean Patriarch said he fears the move will only create more conflict in the Nineveh Plain, and this would force Christians to no longer return to their homes. He then urged Christians to follow the legitimate and established authorities and support the regular armies if they really want to have a future.

However, the Assyrian Confederation of Europe (ACE) released a statement on Thursday expressing concern over Patriarch Sako's comments, Christian Today relays.

"There is broad agreement between Assyrian organisations in Iraq and the diaspora that Assyrians must actively participate in the military campaign to liberate the Nineveh Plain and secure the area after the liberation," ACE noted in the statement. "The Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU), which is tasked with that mandate, is officially recognised and supported by the Iraqi government, in direct contradiction to the Patriarch's claims."

In addition, ACE said Christian militias are important because the Kurdish Peshmerga have already abandoned the Assyrians in the Nineveh Plain. The organization called Sako's stance an illustration of how his ideas differ with what the Assyrians in Iraq really need at the moment. The Assyrian leaders maintain that in order for Assyrians to be able to return to Nineveh, Assyrian-led military campaigns are much needed.

Moreover, ACE criticized Sako's desire to establish the separation of religion and state in Iraq. The Assyrian leaders called it an "embarrassing" move on the Chaldean Patriarch's part to meddle in political affairs.

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