BAGHDAD (ChurchMilitant.com) - The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad has been named the recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with persecuted Christians in Iraq.
Primate Mar Louis Raphael Sako told AsiaNews that receiving the price "is not important" because it is the "symbolic value of the gesture" that keeps "alive the focus on the Iraqi people, on the Christian community ... for the future of the country."
L'Œuvre d'Orient, a French Catholic association committed to helping persecuted Christians, proposed his nomination in January which the Norwegian Nobel Committee accepted. Sako's nomination received support from Christians and Muslims in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the world, especially in France where the primate of the Iraqi Church has worked with Catholic and non-Catholic religious leaders and nongovernmental organizations.
Mirkis noted that Sako's nomination represents "a recognition not only for him personally but for all the Christians of Iraq and the Middle East who, in the past few years, have fought hard, stood firm and yet remained non-violent whilst seeking peace, human rights, coexistence and development in the country."
His Excellency explained this year's prize recipient remembers "the martyrs of the Chaldean Church, people like [Abp. Paulos Faraj] Rahho [of Mosul, Iraq] and others, priests and lay people, who sacrificed their lives for their faith."
Since the return of the first Iraqi Catholic family in 2017, Sako has been urging Iraqi Christians to either remain in Iraq or return to keep the Faith alive in the country, remarking, "a Christian community that was born in these lands cannot organize exodus trips that will mark its extinction."
The patriarch observed in 2014 that "if the situation does not change" for Christians in Iraq, "the whole world take responsibility [for] a slow genocide of an entire component of Iraqi society and its age-old culture. ISIS tries to erase all traces," said Sako.
Sako's nomination for the prize according to Mirkis "highlight[s] the sacrifices of an ancient community that chose to remain in its own land despite persecution, the latest being that of Daesh (Islamic State) which forced hundreds of thousands of families to flee, convert or be killed."