Years before turmoil in Egypt and Syria, turmoil swept Iraq, following a U.S.-led invasion that toppled Sadam Hussein. A period of sectarian violence replaced his dictatorship. Suffering became an everyday struggle for the nation's Christians.
LOUIS RAPHAEL I SAKO, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon: "Christians normally are educated to live in freedom and peace and where there is no freedom and no peace they leave and they look for a shelter to educate their children and also to live our their faith."
Numbers for the centuries-old Chaldean Catholic Church explains just how bad things have deteriorated. In 1987, they claimed over 1.2 million adherents. Today, only 500,000 remain. The worse part is those numbers continue dropping.
LOUIS RAPHAEL I SAKO: "The majority left and we feel much more vulnerable now. But we still hope that the situation will change. And security and stability will come back."
But until that happens, Patriarch Louis Sako said his Church, and many other smaller congregations throughout the Middle East, must fend for themselves.
Recently, the Patriarch reached out to his Orthodox counterpart, Mar Dinkha IV, patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East. He proposed a merger of their two Churches, which trace their roots to Iraq. It would mean the Assyrian Church would enter into communion with Rome.
LOUIS RAPHAEL I SAKO: "If we are still isolated, just like small churches, we are really incapable to do anything. But when we are united all together, then we will be a stronger Church and we will have an impact."
The Assyrian patriarch has welcomed increased dialogue between their two Churches. But a merger may not be on the horizon anytime soon.
But for Patriarch Sako greater cooperation is necessary for their Churches survival. He also welcomes the creation of a Christian lobby group to analyze their situation and come up with solutions to survive the current crisis.