Cardinal Louis Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, celebrates a liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in this Feb. 4, 2013, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — So-called “Christian” militias contradict the Christian approach of love, tolerance and peace, said the Chaldean Catholic Church.

Individual Christians who wish to help defend and maintain security in Iraq can best do so by enlisting with the country’s official army or joining the federal police force, said a statement from the Chaldean patriarchate, headed by Cardinal Louis Sako, in Baghdad.

Individuals who live in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq could join its local Peshmerga forces, said the statement, signed by the cardinal.

“We respect individual decisions” to join Iraq’s state-sponsored coalition of some 40 different militias called the Popular Mobilization Forces “or to get involved in politics, but not to form a Christian ‘brigade,'” it said, “since forming a Christian armed militia contradicts the Christian spirituality that calls for love, tolerance, forgiveness and peace.”

The patriarchate sent the official announcement to the Vatican news agency, Fides, and the Rome-based missionary news agency, AsiaNews, which both published reports about the statement July 25.

The statement expressed full support for a decree Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi issued July 1. The decree gave a July 31 deadline to all militias in the country to operate fully within the nation’s armed forces and be subject to its regulations. The armed groups already answer to the prime minister, who is commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces.

The militias assisted the Iraqi- and U.S.-led coalition in pushing out the Islamic State group. But the new decree mandates each militia group to choose to fully integrate with the military and no longer be a political organization or to remain a political entity and unarm themselves; groups will no longer be allowed to operate as both a political and paramilitary body.

The Chaldean patriarchate said it supported the decree, saying it was “an important step in the right direction.”

“This decree would limit the weapons to the state, strengthen its institutions and reinforce national awareness among Iraqis, in terms of their national identity,” it said. It should also help “solidify the pillars of a strong government of law, citizenship and equality,” it added.

“From our side, we are officially announcing our ‘refusal’ of the presence of any Iraqi armed movement” that uses the term “Christian” as part of its name or description, said the statement, which included urging people to not form or join a so-called “Christian ‘brigade.'”

Fides said the patriarchate seemed to be referring specifically to the Babylonian Brigade — a self-styled Christian militia, which was part of the Popular Mobilization Forces seeking to drive out occupying Islamic State fighters and reclaim their homeland. The armed group is also a political movement, headed by Rayan al-Kildani, who now faces U.S. sanctions for human rights abuses.