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Chaldean League of California leads protest against Iraqi president

The Chaldean League of California held a protest on July 20 at the El Cajon Civic Center against the Iraqi government’s recent revocation of the Presidential Decree of 2013 that provided rights and entitlements to Christians in Iraq.

Head of the Chaldean League of California Dr. Ghazi Raho said the organization is disturbed by the recent decision of Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid’s decision as it endangers the Christian community in Iraq, placing them at a greater risk.

The revocation of Decree 147, which recognized Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako as the head of the Chaldean Church and granted him powers to administer Chaldean endowment affairs, threatens to exacerbate the already dire situation faced by the Christian community in Iraq. This community has been subjected to relentless persecution, violence, and marginalization.

President Rashid’s decision further endangers their safety, rights, and overall existence in their homeland, said Chaldean Community Council President Dr. Noori Barka.

Barka said Sako has been head of the church for many years, and the decree gave Sako the power as the head of the church in Baghdad, and this action strips him of his ability to administer the church’s endowment affairs.

“This has been going on in the country for centuries,” he said. “A president comes along and recognizes the head of the church, then the new president Latif Rashid out of nowhere decided to remove this decree. There is no clear reason why he did that. This is threatening to our church. This disrespects our church and our security there. This has caused our people, both inside of Iraq and outside to say no to this action.”

Barka said administering Chaldean endowment affairs is much like the Catholic Diocese in America.

“The church owns buildings, churches, schools, establishments, and the church is the owners of these properties, not the government,” he said. “We can buy, sell, and like the San Diego dioceses they have the control, the power to do whatever they want with these properties. The same thing in Iraq. With the revocation of the decree there is a risk that they (the government) can come and take it. Why would you remove this decree if you do not have this intention? We believe that it is a political move. The government is saying that it does not have the right to do anything on these properties and they are saying that there is no separation from the church and the government.”

Barka said due to this, Cardinal Sako has left his patriarchal residence in Baghdad, relocating to a monastery in Erbil in the northern Kurdistan region after the president of Iraq revoked the decree that formally recognized him as Chaldean patriarch in the country.

Barka said Chaldean Christians are one of the oldest Christians in the world, becoming Christians in the first century, founded in the Parthian Empire.

“There is a lot of history, many establishments, books,” he said. “You cannot imagine what all these things are worth to the Chaldean population.”

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