BEIRUT: The Chaldean patriarch arrived in Lebanon for a rare visit Thursday and urged Christians to not leave their homeland.
Louis Raphael Sako, the Chaldean Catholic patriarch of Babylon, made the comments at Rafik Hariri International Airport, before heading to the Beirut suburb of Hazmieh for the holding of religious services.
“Christians, wherever they are, should not emigrate, because this is considered a withdrawal from the scene and a loss of identity,” he said.
“In countries of emigration, they are refugees and emigres, but here, they have an identity, a role and a history.”
Sako complained about certain countries offering visas as an “inducement” for Christians to emigrate.Sako also spoke against what he termed a “plan for a ‘new Middle East,’ which might see this East divided into religions and ethnic and sectarian cantons,” and lamented civil strife in Arab countries, and particularly the specter of fighting between Sunnis and Shiites.
“I understand a war in defense of the country, or to preserve it, but it is incomprehensible for fighting to take place between people from the same country,” he said.
Sako was elected patriarch in February.
During his visit to Lebanon, the patriarch is scheduled to take part in a religious summit at Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite patriarch, and will pay a visit to the Assyrian Diocese in Sadd al-Boushrieh and meet with the Armenian patriarch.
Sako will also visit Baabda Palace for a meeting with President Michel Sleiman.