Armed members of Christian militias stand guard in front of churches in the restless Mosul district as attacks have driven thousands of Christians from their homes in recent days. The governor of Nineveh Province has blamed “al-Qaeda elements” for the campaign, and the Iraqi government is rushing 1,000 police into the area in an attempt to stop the violence.
And while Iraqi archbishop Louis Sako warned last week that forming Christian militias would only make matters worse and insisted instead that US forces take responsibility for the defense of Iraq’s struggling Christian community, it seems that militias are an option increasingly explored.
Led by Father Behnam Geggi, many churches in the area have organized their own surprisingly well-armed security forces, funded by a mysterious benefactor known only as “Mr. Sarkis.” The militias began organizing after attacks in 2004, but have taken on increased significance with the violence of the past weeks.
The community seems to be modeling their efforts after the Sunni Awakening Movement, but between being a much smaller minority in the troubled country and having no official endorsement or funding from either the Iraqi government or the international forces it is unclear how effective the effort can possibly be.