December 21, 2015

ROME - The survival of Christianity in the Middle East has reached such a critical point that the chances of dialogue and reconciliation in the region are being threatened, said Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako of Baghdad.

"The situation is very bad, very critical and always violent," Patriarch Sako told Catholic News Service Dec. 10.

"Last year in August, 120,000 Christian people were expelled from their homes, their villages and now they are living in some camps with nothing, but the church is helping them."

Patriarch Sako spoke at a Dec. 10-12 conference on Christian persecution in the world.

He told CNS that the mass exodus of Christians in the region will only worsen the situation due to growing tensions between Sunni and Shiite Muslims who "are killing each other.

"We Christians, we always bridged the groups and we promoted dialogue, reconciliation and forgiveness," he said.

Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, stressed the need for Catholics in the West to "speak up for the persecuted Christian minorities in the Middle East" who are often "omitted" and "not mentioned."