Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako has appealed for financial and spiritual aid for Christians in the Middle East, especially in Iraq. The Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, made the plea in a letter on Friday, December 6.

"Today, after two years of its liberation from ISIS, the Nineveh Plain area still needs the help of our brothers and sisters who can pray and give us a hand," said Cardinal Sako. 

In the letter, addressed to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), social institutions, churches, and governments, Sako said that the Christians in the region "need your help so that all the people of the Nineveh Plain (can) remain in their homes, and those who have been displaced outside the region can return to it." 

The Nineveh Plain is region in northern Iraq. 

Although ISIS was defeated, the need for assistance of all forms is still great, wrote Sako. Particularly, there is a "vital need" for healthcare services of all kind, he said.

"I strongly urge all actors to work specifically to restore life to the Nineveh Plain, for instance. By encouraging projects in agriculture, livestock, trade, etc.," he said, suggesting that some more cooperation among bishops in the area could help achieve these goals.

The cardinal also asked Christians to "pray for Iraq, and in particular for the people of the Nineveh Plain," as a special Advent devotion. 

Edward Clancy, director of outreach for Aid to the Church in Need, said that the biggest problem facing people living in the Nineveh Plains is a lack of infrastructure. 

"They don't have have regular resources, as they should, because of the many years of war and now, sporadic help from the government as far as roads, security, things like that," Clancy told CNA in a phone interview. 

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Clancy added that Americans should work to become aware of the problems facing Christians in the Middle East. Without awareness, the entire Christian community there is facing extinction. 

"Awareness is a very big portion of it," said Clancy. "Another thing is that people in the Christian world, the Christian community, tend not to self-promote. You don't hear a lot of, you know, 'this is happening to Christians.' There seems to be a lot more interest in helping others, which is a great thing, but at the same time we have to understand that there's Christians in great need in the Middle East."

On the local level, Clancy said that parishes should work to provide "some sort of aid" to their brethren in the Middle East, either financial or spiritual. Without this aid, Christians will continue to flee their homelands or be at risk of terrorism. 

"We have to, as a Church, get the message out better, understand better that there are Christians there and then do something about it," he said.  

"We should be shocked by the fact that over 90% of the Christians of Iraq have left, perhaps for good," said Clancy. "And that means that it's going to take a concerted effort of the global Church to help Christianity remain in places like Iraq and the Middle East."