Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon Louis Raphael I Sako "appealed to all the Chaldean churches in the world, asking them to pray for a week for peace in Syria and Iraq," Curial Bishop Basel Yaldo of Babylon said Oct. 16.
Bishop Yaldo said that Middle Eastern Christians "are afraid of a return of the Islamic State."
Both Islamic State and al-Qaeda have experienced a resurgence in recent months, regrouping in rural areas, following U.S. disengagement, according to two former Pentagon officials writing in Foreign Affairs. After the fall of the Islamic State caliphate in April, the U.S. cut its troops down by half.
The White House announced Oct. 6 that Turkish forces would take over some security responsibilities in northern Syria and that the U.S. would no longer maintain its military forces in the region. The announcement has caused widespread concern among Kurds in northern Syria and Iraq, and some human rights advocates have accused Trump of abandoning Kurdish allies while implicitly sanctioning a Turkish military offensive.
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After the U.S. announcement, Turkish military forces moved into Syria, with the stated aims of repelling Kurdish forces in Syria perceived to be a threat to Turkish security, and creating a space within Syria in which to house 2 million Syrian refugees now living in Turkey.
Amid the conflict, 950 Islamic State supporters escaped from the Ain Issa detention facility, according to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.
The U.S. government announced Oct. 14. sanctions on senior Turkish officials responsible for the offensive in Syria, and the House of Representatives voted Oct. 17 to condemn the president's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Kurdish-controlled Syria.
Pope Francis appealed for dialogue and prayer for Syria in his Angelus address Oct. 13.
"My thoughts go once again to the Middle East. In particular, to the beloved and tormented Syria, from which dramatic news arrives again about the fate of the people of the country's northeast, who are forced to abandon their houses because of military actions," Pope Francis said.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.