venerdì, maggio 24, 2019


Iraqi Christianity May Soon Be Persecuted to Its End, Archbishop Warns

Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Iraq is warning that Christianity in his country is close to disappearing.
“One of the oldest Churches, if not the oldest Church in the world, is perilously close to extinction. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom,”
Archbishop Warda, a Chaldean Catholic cleric who’s archbishop of Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, said in a recent address in London to Christian British lawmakers. The picture for Christianity is mixed in the Middle East.
In February, Pope Francis celebrated a Mass in the United Arab Emirates that drew 135,000 migrant Catholics. In Saudi Arabia, the first Christian Mass was allowed this past December.
But Christians in Iraq have faced more than 1,4000 years of religious persecution. The long-standing abuse is culminating in a rapid decline, signalling a possible end to Catholicism in the majority-Muslim nation, BBC News reported on its website on May 23.
Since the United States invaded the country in 2003 to oust then-dictator Saddam Hussein, Archbishop Warda has seen the Christian community decline from 1.5 million members to 250,000 now. He attributes the drop to the presence of ISIS in Iraq, He cited one ISIS attack in 2014 that resulted in the displacement of more than 125,000 Christians. “Our tormentors confiscated our present,” he said in London, according to the BBC report, “while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future. In Iraq there is no redress for those who have lost properties, homes and businesses. Tens of thousands of Christians have nothing to show for their life’s work, for generations of work, in places where their families have lived, maybe, for thousands of years.”
While jihadists have continued to be expelled from cities in the Middle East, in the process Christian churches, monasteries and homes have been targeted and destroyed, driving families out of Iraq in droves.
Meanwhile, Sunni and Shiite Muslims continue to fight, with more jihadists hiding out throughout the country, leaving little hope for Christians in Iraq. “Friends, we may be facing our end in the land of our ancestors,” Archbishop Warda said in his London address. “We acknowledge this. In our end, the entire world faces a moment of truth.”

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mercoledì, maggio 22, 2019


Iraq & UK: "Save us from disappearing" Archbishop asks Foreign Secretary

By Aid to the Church in Need (UK)
John Pontifex

An Iraqi Church leader has met UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and called on the British Government to provide urgent help to prevent persecuted minority faith groups from dying out in their ancient homelands.
At meetings in London yesterday (Tuesday, 21st May 2019), Catholic Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil appealed to the UK Government to provide direct aid to Christians and others who have suffered genocide in Iraq.
The Archbishop, who also met Foreign Office Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, went on to ask the UK to apply diplomatic pressure to the Government of Iraq to improve security and end institutionalised discrimination against Christians and other minorities.
Later that day, at a meeting in the House of Commons organised by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the archbishop said UK “engagement” was vital if his people are to recover from “one of the darkest moments in our long history”.
He thanked the Mr Hunt for conducting a global review into the persecution of Christians, saying he was “shocked and delighted” when he heard the news about the initiative, which he described as “unprecedented”.
Christians in Iraq numbered more than 1.5 million before 2003 and latest reports say that, following the Daesh (ISIS) genocide in 2014-17, Christians are now down to well below 150,000.
Archbishop Warda said that, during their occupation of ancient Christian villages in the Nineveh plains, Daesh militants came close to destroying “the beating heart of our community”.
He said that, with notable exception of Hungary, Western governments had failed to match words of sympathy with action and reported slow progress in the task of rebuilding schools and medical care, and declining security.
In the meeting, which was co-chaired by MPs Chris Green and Mike Kane, Archbishop Warda said: “Rebuilding infrastructure is urgently needed but the Government in Iraq has said it has no money. They have told us ‘You will have to rely on your friends’. But this surely should be the task of government.”
He said that, with most governments failing to help, his community had been largely reliant on support from Church organisations, praising ACN.
He said: “When Daesh invaded, our people left with nothing. But thanks be to God and thanks to ACN they were able to survive.
“The help of ACN and other charities – through prayers and generous gifts – have reminded us that we have not been forgotten. This help has made a huge impact.”
ACN has helped rebuild 2,000 homes in the Nineveh Plains and provided food, shelter and schooling for displaced Christians

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martedì, maggio 21, 2019


L'allarme del Cardinale Sako: "In Europa c'è Cristianofobia"

Marco Gombacci

Abbiamo incontrato a Bruxelles il cardinale Louis Raphaël I Sako, Patriarca di Babilonia dei Caldei e presidente dell’Assemblea dei vescovi cattolici d’Iraq. Nominato cardinale da Papa Francesco nel maggio 2018, si trovava nella capitale belga per incontrare i vertici delle istituzioni europee per sottoporre alla loro attenzione la difficile situazione dei cristiani iracheni tutt’ora vittime di discriminazioni e persecuzioni.
Come è la situazione dei cristiani iracheni al giorno d’oggi? Si possono vedere segnali di un ritorno alla vita normale?
Rispetto ad un anno fa la situazione sta migliorando, specialmente nella Piana di Ninive (l’area a maggioranza cristiana nel nord dell’Iraq, ndr). Circa la metà della popolazione è ritornata nei loro villaggi ma il resto dei cristiani sta aspettando la ricostruzione delle loro case e vivono ancora ad Erbil (Kurdistan iracheno) sotto il protettorato della Chiesa cattolica caldea e con l’aiuto delle associazioni misericordiose come Aiuto alla Chiesa che Soffre e la Caritas. Pochissimi governi ci stanno aiutando nel nostro tentativo di ricostruire abitazioni, strade, reinstallare l’elettricità pubblica, rifornire la zona con acqua potabile e soprattutto creare posti di lavoro per i giovani cristiano-iracheni. Abbiamo il timore che senza lavoro, i giovani siano i primi costretti a migrare, lasciando così la loro terra.
Nonostante questo lento ritorno alla normalità, i cristiani continuano ad essere discriminati e questo non è più accettabile. L’Europa ha impiegato troppo tempo a capire che è nel suo interesse far si che i cristiani non disappaiano dall’Iraq. Noi viviamo in queste terre da millenni e abbiamo imparato come parlare e convivere con i musulmani. Siamo cittadini iracheni a tutti gli effetti. Chiediamo all’Unione europea di aiutarci a fare pressioni sullo Stato iracheno per eliminare dalla carta d’identità la dicitura “cristiano” poiché vogliamo la separazione tra Stato e religione. Richiediamo anche l’uguaglianza tra uomo e donna e l’abolizione dei matrimoni con ragazze minorenni.
Cosa possono fare l’Ue e gli Stati europei per aiutare i cristiani iracheni?
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Christians and Muslims ‘inseparable brothers’ in Kurdistan village

Sangar Ali

Nuhava is a village near the Kurdistan Region’s city of Akre, where both Muslim and Christians have coexisted in peace and harmony for centuries.
The relationship between the followers of the two different faiths is known to many as the shining example of pluralism in the Kurdistan Region, with bonds so strong the residents go out of their way to help each other, especially during their respective religious events.
On Monday, Issa Toma, a Christian villager, went out to help his Muslim neighbor tend to his farm as the man is fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“I am a Christian, and my Muslim neighbor is fasting. I came to help him to make him feel comfortable with his fasting,” Toma told Kurdistan 24.
For some two hundred years, Christians and Muslims have lived together in peace in this village, according to Toma.
Yousuf Yelda is another elderly Christian man. He noted the residents always respect each other’s religions and extend a helping hand.
“During Ramadan, we as Christians don’t drink or eat in front of them while they are fasting. We also avoid smoking. That’s for Ramadan in particular. For other normal days, we are always there to go help each other if there is any work,” Yelda told Kurdistan 24.
The village is home to both mosques and churches, with worshippers of both religions congratulating each other during religious occasions, events, and feasts, according to the villagers.
“Thank God, we have no problems. The integration is so strong that it is hard for people from the outside to distinguish between Muslims and Christians, unless we tell them,” Ayoub Rashid, a local Muslim cleric, told Kurdistan 24.
“They (Christians) respect us so much during Ramadan. If in this holy month, we have some work to do, such as farming or manual labor, they voluntary come to help us,” Rashid affirmed, praising the coexistence and mutual respect they enjoy in Nuhava.
The Kurdistan Region is home to roughly 100,000 Christians, spread across different provinces, with the majority living in Erbil and Duhok. Following the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq in 2014, most of Iraq’s remaining Christians were displaced to areas administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), while others fled abroad.
The autonomous region has a unicameral parliamentary legislature with 111 seats, with five quota seats each reserved for Turkmen and Christian parties and one seat specifically set aside for a member of an Armenian party.
They also have their representative and Directorate-General of Christian Affairs in the KRG’s Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs.
The culture of peaceful coexistence and social harmony has its historical roots in the Kurdish region. Indeed, the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, and others have proudly stated that Christians are one of the indigenous people of the area, a melting pot of religious and ethnic minorities.

Editing by Nadia Riva

(Additional reporting by Ari Hussein)

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Il card Sako scrive a Usa e Iran: no alla guerra, dialogo per risolvere la crisi

Louis Raphael Sako*

Di fronte “all’escalation della tensione” fra Iran e Stati Uniti in Medio oriente, il patriarca caldeo scrive una missiva agli ambasciatori di Washington e Teheran in Iraq perché i rispettivi leader “mostrino saggezza” e cerchino la pace. Nella lettera, inviata ad AsiaNews, il card Louis Raphael Sako parla di conseguenze “catastrofiche” in caso di conflitto e invita gli attori in campo a privilegiare il dialogo come unica strada per dirimere le controversie. Perché, come ha già sottolineato ieri il porporato, il Medio oriente “non può sopportare un’altra guerra”
Intanto prosegue lo scontro, finora verbale, fra le leadership di Teheran e Washington in un crescendo di accuse reciproche. Il presidente iraniano Hassan Rouhani, citato dall’agenzia Irna, apre al dialogo ma non in questo contesto. “Oggi la situazione - afferma - non è idonea per i colloqui e la nostra unica scelta è la resistenza”. In precedenza l’omologo Usa Donald Trump aveva minacciato l’uso di una “forza immensa” nel caso in cui vengano colpiti interessi statunitensi nella regione mediorientale. Egli ha quindi accusato i vertici iraniani di “ostilità”. 
Da Teheran arriva anche la nota del ministro degli Esteri Mohammad Javad Zarif, il quale invita la Casa Bianca a guardare alla storia passata: “Gli iraniani - ha detto - sono rimasti saldi per millenni, mentre gli aggressori se ne sono andati uno a uno… usate il rispetto-funziona!”. Nel frattempo la Repubblica islamica ha quadruplicato la produzione di uranio arricchito e, secondo gli esperti, in poco tempo potrebbe superare i limiti stabiliti da un accordo nucleare firmato nel 2015 e che appare sempre più carta straccia.

Ecco, di seguito, il messaggio del patriarca caldeo. Traduzione a cura di AsiaNews:

Appello al dialogo e al contenimento della crisi fra gli Stati Uniti d’America e la Repubblica islamica dell’Iran

Di fronte all’escalation della tensione nella regione [mediorientale] e in ragione della nostra doppia responsabilità, a livello ecclesiale e sul piano nazionale, rivolgiamo un appello ai leader della Repubblica islamica dell’Iran (la nostra nazione vicina) e degli Stati Uniti d’America, perché mostrino saggezza e un’impronta rivolta alla pace per contenere il conflitto in atto.
La regione non può tollerare un’altra guerra dalle conseguenze catastrofiche, nella quale tutti hanno “da perdere”, in particolare modo le persone povere e disarmate. Per questo crediamo fermamente che il dialogo sia la sola strada per portare avanti le esigenze attuali, con l’obiettivo di una coesistenza pacifica in Medio oriente, di un rispetto reciproco e di buone relazioni fra esseri umani, al fine di conseguire il traguardo della stabilità. 
Questo dialogo dovrà condurre alla pace, che stiamo aspettando con così tanta urgenza per evitare di versare altro sangue. Al contrario, serve garantire sicurezza e stabilità. E ancora, promuovere uno sforzo comune per garantire una prosperità culturale ed economica che sia di beneficio per tutta la popolazione e per lo sviluppo della nazione. 
Noi, in Iraq, dobbiamo sentirci rafforzati ed edificati solo dalla nostra storia condivisa, dal patriottismo e dall’unità, che ci esorta a rimanere saldi nel sostegno al governo irakeno, in quanto esso solo è l’unica entità con valore legale (e decisionale) presente nel Paese.

* Patriarca caldeo di Baghdad e presidente della Conferenza episcopale irakena

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Appeal for Dialogue and Containment of the Crisis Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran

Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako
Baghdad, 20 May 2019

The message was sent to both Embassies USA and Iranian in Baghdad

As the tension is increasing in the region and due to our national and ecclesiastical responsibility, we are pleading for the decision makers of the Islamic Republic of Iran (our neighboring country) and the United States of America to adopt wisdom and appeasement in containing the current conflict.
The region cannot tolerate another catastrophic war, in which everyone is the “loser”, especially the innocent and poor people. Therefore, we believe that the dialogue is the only way to promote the actual needs of the region for peaceful coexistence, mutual respect and good relationships between humankinds to achieve stability.
Such dialogue will lead to the peace that the region urgently needs to avoid shedding more blood, but rather to establish security and stability; and to persuade a cultural and economic prosperity for the benefit of people and the development of the country.
We in Iraq, have to be strengthened exclusively by our shared history and unity that urges us to stand firm with the Iraqi Government, as the only legal and official entity in the country.

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lunedì, maggio 20, 2019


Archbishop of Erbil: Is the US abandoning Christians at risk in Iraq?

By Catholic News Agency
May 17, 2019

Archbishop Bashar Warda
one of the leading voices on behalf of persecuted and displaced Christians in Iraq, released today an urgent statement regarding the retreat of U.S. personnel from key areas in the country.
“We are gravely concerned regarding the recent draw down of the U.S. presence in Iraq,” the archbishop said. “Having faced genocide at the hands of ISIS, our shattered communities have drawn immense hope from the promise of the American commitment to Iraqi minority communities spearheaded by the Vice President.”
Warda, as Archbishop of Erbil in the Kurdistan region, received tens of thousands of Christian and Yazidi refugees displaced from the Nineveh Plain after ISIS took large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate in 2012.
“The 2011 pullout by the last administration created the vacuum which allowed ISIS to emerge,” the archbishop said. “A new vacuum created by American disengagement will likely meet with a similarly unhappy result. We urgently await clarification from the U.S. government concerning its commitments to the endangered minorities of Iraq.”
On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department ordered the evacuation of all non-emergency U.S. government employees at the American embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Erbil. The Trump administration said the order was given in relation to a threat connected to Iran. Iraqi authorities have expressed doubt about the threat. U.S. lawmakers have asked President Donald Trump for more information about the situation.
Stephen Rasche, counsel for the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, told CNA that Archbishop Warda is responding to this partial evacuation.
“We are responding particularly today to unclear information over the past several days from various sources within the U.S. government that the U.S. is preparing to pull back, at least in part, from its prior commitments regarding support to endangered minorities in Iraq,” Rasche said.
Rasche said that Christians and other minorities are increasingly nervous because “the Church in Iraq has yet to receive a clear statement from anyone in the U.S. Government as to what the drawdown of personnel means for efforts to help these minorities.”
On October 25, 2017, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence committed to defending persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
He told a crowd gathered in Washington D.C. for the annual summit of In Defense of Christians (IDC) that the US “will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups.”
“The United States will work hand in hand from this day forward with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith. This is the moment, now is the time, and America will support these people in their hour of need,” Pence also said.

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Trump minaccia l’Iran. Card Sako: il Medio oriente non può sopportare un’altra guerra

By Asia News

La regione mediorientale non è in grado di “sopportare” un’altra guerra, che rappresenterebbe “un disastro per tutti”. È quanto ha sottolineato il primate caldeo, card Louis Raphael Sako, ricevendo nella sede patriarcale nel fine settimana l’incaricato di affari dell’ambasciata Usa a Baghdad Joey Hood. Intanto un razzo [ignoti gli autori del lancio] è caduto ieri nella “Zona Verde” della capitale irakena, poco distante dalla rappresentanza diplomatica statunitense e il presidente Donald Trump è tornato a minacciare Teheran. 
In questo momento di grande tensione, il patriarca Sako ha sottolineato che è “urgente focalizzare” gli sforzi di entrambi le parti “per calmare la situazione” e rilanciare l’invito a un “dialogo civile”. Bisogna fare il possibile, ha aggiunto il porporato, per “scongiurare qualsiasi tipo di soluzione militare”. Pronta la risposta dell’incaricato di affari Usa, secondo il quale gli Stati Uniti “sono consapevoli” delle conseguenze nel caso in cui si continui ad “alimentare” questo scontro.
Interpellato da AsiaNews il card Sako conferma “la grande paura fra la gente” per un possibile, nuovo scontro. “Personalmente - aggiunge - non credo vi sarà una guerra, perché sarebbe un disastro per tutti: per l’Iran, per i Paesi vicini come l’Iraq, il Libano, la Siria e con implicazioni regionali, l’Arabia Saudita. Tutti sarebbero coinvolti”. Bisogna essere “molto prudenti e dialogare”, aggiunge il porporato, secondo cui “il pericolo sono i gruppi fondamentalisti e le milizie armate che vogliono provocare americani e iraniani, trascinandoli alla guerra. Dobbiamo pensare - conclude - agli 80 milioni di cittadini iraniani”.
Un possibile conflitto fra Repubblica islamica e americani è uno dei grandi temi di queste settimane, oltre che elemento di grande timore fra le diplomazie internazionali. Ad innescare l’escalation della tensione, la decisione del presidente Usa Donald Trump nel maggio dello scorso anno di ritirarsi dall’accordo nucleare (Jcpoa) raggiunto a fatica dal predecessore Barack Obama, introducendo le più dure sanzioni della storia contro Teheran.
Una decisione che ha provocato un significativo calo nell’economia iraniana - confermato da studi Fmi - e un crollo nel petrolio, obiettivo della seconda parte delle misure in vigore dal 4 novembre scorso. In risposta, l’Iran nelle scorse settimane ha deciso di “riaprire” al nucleare ritirandosi da alcuni impegni “minori e generali” previsti dall’accordo sull’atomica. All’annuncio di Teheran ha fatto seguito l’invio di navi da guerra e bombardieri nelle acque del Golfo da parte degli Stati Uniti e incidenti navali dai contorni poco chiari. 
Ieri il presidente Usa Trump ha inviato un messaggio durissimo alla leadership di Teheran, affermando che la Repubblica islamica sarà distrutta nel caso di una guerra fra i due Paesi. “Se l’Iran vuole combattere - ha scritto in un tweet l’inquilino della Casa Bianca - sarà la fine ufficiale per l’Iran. Non provate mai più a minacciare gli Stati Uniti!”. Una retorica bellicosa in cui assicura che non permetterà mai all’Iran di “sviluppare armi nucleari”. 
Se Trump alimenta la retorica del conflitto, dalle parti di Teheran si cerca di stemperare la tensione. “Non vi sarà una guerra - ha sottolineato il ministro iraniano degli Esteri Mohammad Javad Zarif all’agenzia Irna - dato che noi non vogliamo la guerra e nessuno può nutrire l’illusione di affrontare l’Iran nella regione”. Al capo della diplomazia di Teheran si aggiungono le parole del capo dei Pasdaran, il generale Hossein Salami, secondo cui gli ayatollah “non sono in cerca di un conflitto”, mentre gli Stati Uniti “hanno paura della guerra e non la cercheranno”. 
Nello scontro a distanza fra Washington e Teheran si inserisce anche Riyadh, che accusa l’Iran per una serie di incidenti avvenuti di recente nella regione. Nel fine settimana il principe ereditario saudita Mohammed bin Salman (Mbs) ha discusso al telefono degli sviluppi politici, diplomatici e militari nella regione con il segretario di Stato Usa Mike Pompeo. Confermando il colloquio, il ministro saudita degli Esteri Adel al-Jubeir ha dichiarato che “noi vogliamo pace e stabilità nella regione, ma non resteremo inermi di fronte ai continui attacchi iraniani”

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Cardinal Sako to the Chargé d’ Affaires (CDA) of the US Embassy: The Region Does Not Tolerate Another War

Patriarchate Media, 18 May 2019

His Beatitude (H.B.) Patriarch Cardinal, Louis Raphael Sako, welcomed at the headquarters of the Chaldean Patriarchate at Al-Mansour district in Baghdad, the Chargé d’ Affaires (CDA) of the United States of America in Iraq, Mr. Joey Hood and his delegation.
Regarding the current situation, H.B. indicated that the region does not tolerate another war, since it will be a disaster for everyone. It is urgent to focus our effort towards calming down both sides and urge them to adopt a civilized dialogue, to avoid military solutions.
The Chargé d’ Affaires of the Embassy emphasized the importance of what H.B. suggested, especially that the United States is aware of the impact of “fueling” this conflict. In addition, Mr. Hood confirmed his personal follow up on the reconstruction process, of the houses destroyed by ISIS at the Nineveh Plain area.
On the other hand the CDA reiterated US Government commitment to helping Christians and other components of Iraqi society recover from genocide and return home. Also, noted US Government commitment to abiding by the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA), including the prohibition on using Iraqi territory to attack any other country.
In return, H.B. appreciated the field visit of Mr. Hood to some of the towns of Nineveh Plain and highlighted the necessity of this follow up to encourage the return of IDPs.
At the end of the meeting, both sides “pinpointed” the importance of supporting the Official Iraqi Army and the National Police to strengthen their role in enforcing law, stopping corruption, maintaining the “prestige” of the country and protecting it.
The meeting was attended by His Excellency, the Auxiliary Bishop Robert Saeed Jarjis, the Secretary Fr. Noel Farman and Dr. Ekhlass Macdassy, the General Secretary of the Chaldean Patriarchate.

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venerdì, maggio 17, 2019


After Attacks On Assyrians, Northern Iraq’s Christian Minority Recommits To A Homeland

By The Daily Caller
Uzay Bulut

On May 13, assailants broke into an Assyrian Christian home and attacked two elderly women, a mother and daughter, in the Iraqi town of Bartella. The women were repeatedly stabbed with a knife and their gold and money were stolen. The two victims were then hospitalized in Mosul. The daughter, who sustained a violent head injury, remains in critical condition.
Two men who were arrested for the crime are from Shabak, a Shia group that is supported by Iran alongside the Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia, reported the human rights organization, International Christian Concern (ICC).
is a town in the Nineveh plain in Iraq, the ancient Assyrian heartland, where Assyrian Christians still constitute a demographic majority and have for years sought autonomy or self-governance. However, since the defeat of ISIS, Bartella has been occupied by the Brigade 30 militia under the Hashd al-Shaabi. And the number of Shia Shabak people is increasing in the southern towns of Nineveh.
Susan Patto,
an Assyrian living in Baghdad, told the Daily Caller, “the attack on those elderly women is not just a crime of theft; it’s a message to Assyrians that you are not safe in your homes and towns.”
“The fragile security situation in Nineveh Plain, where different sides control security, and most of them are not even people of that area, is creating more problems, and also increasing the fear of people to go back to their towns,”
Patto added.

“There is also the problem of rebuilding what was destroyed; it’s not going as it should be. People are not compensated for what they have lost, and there are no decent houses to live in, no infrastructure, and no jobs, and these are massive obstacles for people to go back. So the most urgent concerns of Christians are security and the rebuilding of their towns.”

The Assyrians, who are the descendants of the original inhabitants of ancient Assyria, have lived in the Middle East for millennia and are indigenous to Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey.
The Assyrian language they speak, which is also known as Aramaic, Syriac or Neo-Aramaic, was the mother tongue of Jesus.
Ancient Assyrian civilization made an enormous contribution to the history and culture of the region. For instance, ancient Assyrians developed mathematical inventions and sophisticated medicine which influenced science as far away as Greece.
Since the rise of Islam in the seventh century, however, Assyrians and other Christians became “dhimmis,” or second-class subjects. Yet, there remained sizable Assyrian communities for centuries afterwards, even under the Ottoman Empire. This changed dramatically with the Assyrian genocide that took place in Ottoman Turkey from 1915 to 1923, in which “300,000 Assyrians were murdered and innumerable women were abducted,” writes the author Mardean Isaac.
Even so, the murder of Assyrians did not come to a halt either in Turkey or in Iraq after the genocide came to a halt. According to a 2017 report by the Assyrian Confederation of Europe, “Assyrians represent one of the most consistently targeted communities in Iraq throughout its modern history. This has included the state-sanctioned massacre at Simele in 1933; Saddam Hussein’s Anfal campaign, which included the targeting of Assyrians villages; ruthless campaigns of terror to which Christians were subjected following the U.S. invasion in 2003; and finally, the recent tragic chapter authored by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist organization.”
Continua a leggere...»

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giovedì, maggio 16, 2019


Patriarca Sako: i Partiti si sono impadroniti dei seggi parlamentari riservati ai cristiani

By Fides

I Partiti politici iracheni con più potere hanno piazzato i propri emissari anche nei seggi parlamentari riservati, dal sistema istituzionale nazionale, ai rappresentanti appartenenti alla componente cristiana.
Lo stesso “furto” delle quote di rappresentanza spettanti ai cristiani si verifica negli organismi comunali e amministrativi. Lo denuncia ancora una volta il Cardinale Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarca di Babilonia dei caldei. In un articolato intervento sulle vere ragioni dell’esodo dei cristiani dall’Iraq, il Primate della Chiesa caldea enumera le cause e i possibili rimedi per i fenomeni di emigrazione che stanno indebolendo la presenza stessa dei cristiani in Iraq, e rischiano di cancellare per sempre la pluralità di identità religiose, culturali e etniche che rappresentava una risorsa della convivenza nazionale. “Nel 1970” riconosce il Patriarca Sako “i cristiani erano circa il 5% della popolazione dell'Iraq, e dopo la caduta del precedente regime nel 2003, la loro percentuale scese a meno del 2%”.
Il Cardinale caldeo riporta casi ed esempi concreti delle discriminazioni che penalizzano i cristiani nella vita ordinaria, anche attraverso la loro marginalizzazione nell’accesso alle cariche pubbliche e accademiche.
Maryam Maher - riferisce il Patriarca nel suo intervento, inviato all’Agenzia Fides - è una giovane cristiana laureatasi con alti voti, inserita dal Ministero dell'istruzione superiore e della ricerca scientifica tra i laureati segnalati per le nomine, ma gli organismi competenti hanno ignorato tale segnalazione, “perché lei è cristiana”.
Anche la nomina del nuovo Presidente dell’Università di Hamdanyia – fa sapere il Cardinale – non è stata portata a termine perché il candidato più accreditato era un professore cristiano. Non ha trovato finora alcuna attuazione la legge approvata dal Consiglio dei Ministri nel 2018 che disponeva l’assunzione di cristiani negli enti pubblici e amministrativi, al posto di impiegati o funzionari cristiani che vanno in pensione o lasciano i posto di lavoro pubblico.
Tra i fattori di disagio e di discriminazione sofferti dai cristiani, il Patriarca Sako ricorda anche la mancata istituzione di tribunali speciali chiamati a legiferare su materie afferenti allo status personale: tutti i non musulmani – spiega il Cardinale iracheno - devono sottoporre alle Corti islamiche i casi e le dispute su questioni religiose, ereditarie e matrimoniali che li vedono coinvolti.

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The Main Reason Behind the Migration of Iraqi Christians and Minorities: Constant Discrimination and Uncertain Future!

Photo Chaldean Patriarchate
By Chaldean Patriarchate
Cardinal Louis Sako

Christians and other minorities played a significant role in enriching Iraq’s cultural, social and economic diversity, making valuable contributions to education, health, public administration and social services. This diversity created a beautiful mosaic of ethnic, religious, cultural, linguistic and traditional components. In the 1970s, Christians were about 5 % of Iraq’s population, and after the fall of the previous regime in 2003, their percentage dropped down to less than 2% due to being terrorists’ violence target, (e.g. Eastern Christians in the 1960s were 20%, while they are about 4% today). So, this “silence” and the absence of serious steps to change their situation, will push the remaining Christians and minorities to choose emigration, which will affect negatively this beautiful national cultural diversity, and distort it. However, a country with one homogenous fabric could be isolated from the world and may generate a kind of radicalism, ethnic and sectarian fanaticism. Therefore, Government priority should be, to preserve and protect the Christian and minorities’ rights and identity.
Decline in the noticeable historical presence of Christians and minorities is due to several factors: Institutional weakness at the level of justice; chaos; equality; fragility of the security situation; and the competition for personal benefits away from integrity and principle. Moreover, racial discrimination against them on daily practices including education, employment and social life, particularly against young people with higher education ambition, and employability. For example, Maryam Maher is a young Christian graduate (female) with high grades has been listed by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (HESR) among the outstanding graduates of the college for the academic year 2016-2017, with a recommendation to be appointed, but the implementing agency ignored that because she is Christian! Another example is the issuance of an official letter from the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers Dr. Mahdi Mohsen Al-Alak, on 27/1/2019 to replace the current President of the University of Hamdanyia with a more efficient Christian Professor, but the decision was not implemented also. What kind of law is this? A third example is of yesterday’s incident when 3 Christian women in Bartella were harshly beaten and robbed!
On the other hand, the terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda and ISIS are considered the most “painful” since “Sifa” massacre – of the World War I – that contributed to Christians’ suffering and injustice, where they were displaced from their homes and towns, in addition to the destruction of their buildings; Churches that have been turned to ruins; as well as erasing their crosses, statues and other religious symbols, urging them to leave their homes and areas.
Images of discrimination against Christians and minorities:
Political Positions: According to the “quota” of the Iraqi Parliament, five representatives of Christian component should be elected. However, the major “political parties” intervene in the process by supporting certain candidates for their own benefit, “stealing” Christians’ right in having this privilege, since the reality, showed that such “elected Parliament members” do not care about the Christian component, and have done nothing in terms of providing services to them. The same thing applies to the election in municipal and administrative councils!
Personal Status Law: Christians and other religious minorities do not have their own “special” courts, so they have to be subjugated to Islamic court, in terms of spiritual, religious matters, marriages, inheritance etc. We wonder, why don’t we apply a civil law for all Iraqis? as is the case in most countries of the world.
The Office of Endowment: The mission of which is to follow up the affairs of the Churches and Temples of the Yazidi and Sabean Mandaean religions focusing on the legal, real estate and maintenance aspects. Also, to take care of the school curricula to ensure their compatibility with religious and national values. Unfortunately, this office is “hindered” by its’ simple budget and limited allocation; in addition to the persistent delay of the executive authorities, in attempt to stop endowment projects.
All these oppressive factors, are actually threatening and affecting Christians’ and minorities historical and cultural existence. It also contributed collectively to make their “path way” awful, foggy and fearful of the future, especially in facing the silence of decision makers in the Iraqi Government. Even though, Christians are known for being loyal to their homeland and have paid a precious price for that.
Work Plan is Needed:
During our meetings with Government Officials, it is important to sense their good intentions, which is not enough. The actual need is for practical measures or steps that might change the reality. Christians and minorities are eager to see “practical solutions”, after all the injustice and discrimination they have endured along the years. Their desire is to practice their lives and their faith freely as Iraqi citizens; and their rights to be respected in order to contribute positively to the prosperity of their country. Below are some ideas that deserve a follow-up, support and encouragement from the Iraqi Government, hopefully:
  1. Iraqi leaders and political “powers” must put their political differences aside, and be the voice of moderation, national sovereignty and tolerance. They should search seriously for a solution to the existing problems and eliminate the above factors from its’ roots, in particular, religious extremism that uses violence. It is worth mentioning here that religion came for the sake of man, to rationalize his mind and heart; urge him to virtue and avoid immorality; treat everyone with compassion, in order to live in peace and joy. Hence, crimes that we commit in the name of religion and in the name of God, Who we worship, are mortal sins. We must apologize for committing it and avoid it, by all means.
  1. The Iraqi government must seriously make the fundamental reforms including: the application of the law with no fear or favouritism; disarming militias; providing security and stability; combating extremism, discrimination, terrorism and corruption, using qualification and competence as a measure for employment. Example for the unfairness in employing people from the Christian component is disregarding the compensatory law of employing Christians to replace their Christian colleague who “resigned, left the job for different reasons or retired, this law was approved by the Council of Ministers in 2018. In my previous article, I described Christians as “deferred migrants” facing an absent government stance, where I reported many cases of injustice against Christians.
  1. Iraqi constitution should respect the right of peaceful existing in spite of being different and diverse, by adopting a contemporary civil political “policy” that promotes citizenship values; achieves the principles of freedom, dignity, democracy, social justice and true relationship among all Iraqi citizens regardless of their religious, cultural and ethnic affiliations; and promotes coexistence with Muslims. This way, Iraq will be the land of love and peace.
  1. Iraqi laws ought to provide good conditions that guarantee Christians and other religious minorities the full citizenship and freedom in practicing their faiths explicitly; preserve their heritage, archaeological and historical monuments as an integral part of Iraqi civilization, in order to enable them to continue their lives with dignity. Christians and minorities are longing for a humankind society in which people respect each other.
Despite the painful experience and suffering of Iraqi Christians and minorities, caused by successive terrorist incidents along the years. I believe that this is the only way, to encourage those, who are currently living in the neighbouring countries or in diaspora (as migrants), to think about returning home, especially that the homeland is still alive in their hearts and conscience.

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mercoledì, maggio 15, 2019


Emergenza sicurezza nella Piana di Ninive: due anziane donne cristiane rapinate e pestate a sangue

By Fides

La rapina e le violenze subite in casa da due anziane donne cristiane nella Piana di Ninive da un gruppo armato sono diventate “caso” politico, facendo riesplodere le polemiche sulla mancanza di sicurezza in quell’area dell’Iraq, tradizionale zona di insediamento delle comunità cristiane.
Le due donne – madre e figlia – sono state pestate a sangue lunedì 13 maggio nella loro casa, nella cittadina di Bartella, da una squadra di uomini armati, che dopo aver fatto irruzione nella loro abitazione le hanno massacrate di botte e rapinate dei loro beni. Le due donne si trovano in ospedale, in condizioni gravi. Intanto, Il giorno dopo la violenta rapina, le forze di polizia hanno arrestato due sospetti, che in casa detenevano un vero e proprio arsenale, costituito da tre Kalashnikov, quattro bombe a mano e sette coltelli militari.
La vicenda non viene liquidata sui media locali come un semplice episodio di cronaca nera. Esponenti di organizzazioni cristiane come la professoressa Muna Yaku, docente di giurisprudenza all'Università di Salahaddin di Erbil, collega il pestaggio delle due donne a altre azioni intimidatorie volte a allontanare o tenere lontane le famiglie cristiane dai loro villaggi d’origine, situati nella Piana di Ninive, e da cui i cristiani sono fuggiti tra la primavera e l’estate del 2014, quando l’intera area era caduta sotto il controllo delle milizie del sedicente Stato Islamico (Daesh). Richieste veementi di indagare sulla vicenda criminale e di individuare e punire i colpevoli sono arrivate anche da Rayan al Kildani, capo delle “Brigate Babilonia”, gruppo politico nato come milizia armata, che ha sempre rivendicato la propria etichetta di milizia composta da cristiani, anche se risulta documentato il loro collegamento con milizie sciite filo-iraniane.
La Piana di Ninive era in passato un’area di convivenza etnica e religiosa, dove vivevano insieme arabi sunniti, cristiani, curdi, shabak, yazidi. Molti dei gruppi minoritari della zona sono stati costretti a fuggire quando Daesh ha preso il controllo di Mosul.
A Bartella, nonostante gli appelli delle gerarchie ecclesiastiche e le iniziative di solidarietà e sostegno economico, meno di un terzo delle 3.800 famiglie cristiane fuggite al tempo dell’occupazione jihadista sono tornate alle proprie case.
La Piana di Ninive continua a essere al centro di interessi regionali e operazioni di gruppi etnico-religiosi diversi, con esponenti delle comunità cristiane che lanciano allarmi periodici denunciando tentativi di alterare i tradizionali equilibri demografici dell’area. In passato (vedi Fides 2/2/2018), Khalil Jamal Alber, direttore generale per gli affari cristiani presso il Ministero per le dotazioni religiose (Awqaf) del governo della Regione autonoma del Kurdistan iracheno, aveva sostenuto che le Forze di mobilitazione popolare – milizie di matrice sciita presenti sul territorio della Piana di Ninive – stavano ponendo in atto un vero e proprio tentativo di modificare la composizione multi-religiosa e multi-etnica della popolazione della Piana, a scapito della componente cristiana. Tale programma, a detta di Khalil Jamal Alber, veniva portato avanti attraverso il trasferimento nella regione di popolazione sciita proveniente anche dall'Iraq meridionale, e con forme di intimidazione e di pressione sociale messe in atto anche da esponenti della gruppo etnico religioso Shabak

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Church renovated by Hungary reopens in Kurdistan's city of Soran

By Kurdistan 24
Sangar Ali

A special ceremony marked the reopening of a church on Wednesday in the Kurdistan Region’s city of Soran after it was renovated by the Hungarian government.
The occasion, at the Mar Georgis Church, was attended by the acting minister of the KRG Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs Pshtiwan Sadiq and many local Christian residents.
(Photo: Kurdistan 24/Rahand Mohammed-Amin)
The house of worship was originally built in 1980 and is located some 70 kilometers northeast of the regional capital of Erbil.
The Kurdistan Region is home to roughly 100,000 Christians, distributed throughout the different provinces but with the majority living in Erbil and Duhok. Following the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq in 2014, most of Iraq's remaining Christians were displaced to areas administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), while others fled abroad.
On April 6, the KRG opened the first Armenian Orthodox church in Erbil’s district of Ankawa, an area known for having a predominantly Christian population.
“The opening of this church itself is laying another foundation stone for peaceful coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups in the Kurdistan Region,” Safeen Dizayee, the spokesperson of the KRG told Kurdistan 24.
The autonomous region has a unicameral parliamentary legislature with 111 seats, with five quota seats each reserved for Turkmen and Christian parties and one seat specifically set aside for a member of an Armenian party. 
In March 2018, Christian leaders gathered to praise the Hungarian government for opening a new school for displaced children as well as for its continued support of the Kurdistan Region in general. Hungary's grant of US $700,000 to the project, meant for children displaced by the war with the Islamic State, was matched with the same amount being donated by the Archdiocese of Erbil.
"Kurdistan is a place of peace, a pace of security, a place of education," he added. "A future, also, for all the people of Iraq. It's not only the Christians that have been displaced." 

Editing by John J. Catherine
(Additional reporting by Tayfur Mohammed)

Note by Baghdadhope:
The church  of Mar Georgis belongs to the Assyrian Church of the East and the ceremony of consecration was officiated by the Patriarch of the church: Mar Gewargis III Sliwa.  

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Authorities in northern Iraq investigate beating, robbery of Christian women

By Rudaw

Nineveh police launched an investigation into a reported robbery on Tuesday in the northern Iraqi town of Bartella that ended with the severe beating of two elderly Christian women and robbery of a mother and daughter.
“Nineveh Police Staff Commander Hamad Namis directed the formation of an investigative committee comprised of a number of specialized officers to investigate the incident of two criminals carrying out an armed robbery on the house of a Christian family in the Bartella district of Nineveh province,”
said Saad Maan, the spokesperson for the Iraqi interior ministry, in a statement on Tuesday.
The two [elderly] women, a daughter and a mother, were beaten and had their belongings stolen, according to the statement. “Quick measures have been taken,” Maan added.
Two suspects with “criminal records” living near the burglarized house have been arrested, the statement detailed. Three Kalashnikov rifles, four hand grenades and seven military-grade knives were found in their houses “in addition to finding traces of blood in the house of the two suspects.”
They are waiting for the results of the forensic evidence to prove the identity of the “real culprits.”
A page called Ainkawa for All on Facebook posted pictures of the two supposed victims, but no names were provided. Rudaw was unable to independently verify the identities of those depicted. 
Ainkawa is a predominately Christian neighborhood in the Kurdistan Region capital of Erbil. It effectively serves as the capital for Christian advocates in the country — home to activists, non-governmental organizations, and media.
“An armed group breaks into the house of two ladies of our nation in Bartella and practices the worst type of torture against them. They are now in the hospital,” read the caption.
While the daughter appeared to be awake, the mother seems to be unconscious in the graphic photos.
Muna Yaku
, a professor of law in Erbil’s Salahaddin University and an activist for Assyrian rights who has served on Kurdistan’s Constitution Committee, decried the attack and considered it a systematic effort to drive the Christian population out of their homeland.
“It is true that crimes could be committed anytime and anywhere, but some of them can’t be just fleeting. Rather, they are part of a well thought plan to strike fear into the people of Nineveh plains and induce them to immigrate,”
Yaku said in a Facebook post on Monday.
She claimed that the gold jewelry of the two women had been stolen.
“What do we run from? Demographic change, a lack of services, crumbling infrastructure, the withering away of work opportunities, ethnic and religious discrimination, or lack of security,”
Yaku said.

Continua a leggere...»

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martedì, maggio 14, 2019


Elderly Christian woman and daughter stabbed by armed men in northwestern Iraq

An elderly Christian woman and her daughter were attacked by armed men on Monday in the historical Assyrian city of Bartella.
The woman and her daughter were reportedly attacked with hammers and knives before the assailants fled the scene of the crime.
According to the Iraqi Christian Foundation, the attackers were from an Iranian-backed militia.
Iraq’s Christian population, which is primarily made up of Syriac Orthodox and Chaldeans (eastern Catholic), has suffered immensely over the last two decades, with a large portion of the historical community fleeing their ancient lands.

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lunedì, maggio 13, 2019


The Speech of His Beatitude Patriarch Cardinal Sako at the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) Partners Meeting (7 May 2019, Lebanon)

Ladies and Gentlemen,
These meetings play a role in improving the spirit of unity among the churches in the East for common Christian witness in such a vibrant, spiritually and socially diverse region.
It is now more than ever, that the Eastern Churches represented by its’ four families: The Catholic, Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox and Evangelical/Protestant, need to unify their visions, perspectives and approaches, especially on issues related to Christian presence in the Middle East facing many challenges.
We hope that this meeting, in particular, will come up with practical steps towards the following:
  1. Interactive and cooperated Christian media, where we add to each other in strengthening our current stance in the Middle East. This kind of collaboration provides “our Churches” with the proper space to come together, pray, reflect, analyze, speak with a common voice, and witness together.
  1. Involve young people in projects that contribute to building the community / society, in which they live (such as sports, scouts, hands-on programs including serving poor, marginalized and oppressed people, etc.).
  1. Encourage activities that might serve as a bridge to reinforce and develop interfaith dialogue (Christian-Christian; Christians-Muslims; Christians-other religions; East Churches-Western Churches). Activities could be summer camps, educational competitions, with a focus on environmental issues etc.
 Overall, partners will work as intermediaries between Christians and churches in the region and their brothers and sisters in Christ elsewhere, keeping in mind that we are all human beings, created in God’s image and likeness, with equal rights and responsibilities.
Thanks again and wish you a productive and successful meeting.
God Bless

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venerdì, maggio 10, 2019


Don Giorgio Scatto su Qaraqosh, la città irachena distrutta dall’Isis: «I segni della guerra sempre meno evidenti»

By Gente Veneta

I segni della distruzione, a Qaraqosh, si fanno sempre meno evidenti. La vita è tornata a pulsare intensa nella città irachena invasa e devastata, nel 2014, dall’Isis.
È la percezione netta che don Giorgio Scatto, priore della comunità di Marango di Caorle, Cristina, anche lei di Marango, e la bergamasca Anna stanno avendo in questi giorni del loro viaggio in Iraq.

«Quest’oggi – racconta don Scatto nel suo reportage quotidiano – siamo usciti a piedi per gustare la vita per le vie di Qaraqosh. Il profumo del pane fresco ci ha subito rapiti a pochi metri da casa: Anna ha potuto improvvisarsi panettiera nel piccolo forno che produce il tipico pane per la colazione, il “samon”.La varietà e bellezza di alcune case è segno di una ricostruzione che si fa sempre più apprezzabile. Ma oltre alle case si inesifica anche il cammino quotidiano delle tante attività di una città, a partire dalle opere di educazione: «Visitiamo la scuola media delle suore domenicane – prosegue don Giorgio – dove suor Silvia ci racconta dell’islamizzazione dei programmi scolastici imposta dal governo centrale. Al centro diocesano San Paolo, don Duraid ci mostra la ristrutturazione completa degli ambienti: teatro, sala d’incisione, biblioteca… Nello stabile accanto visitiamo la radio locale “Voce di Pace”, emittente per lo più religiosa che ha ripreso a trasmettere da settembre scorso. Nel rincasare attraversiamo la parte della città ricca di negozi, bancarelle e attività di ogni genere».
C’è spazio – ed è un altro segno di ripresa – anche per svago e sport: è l’evento “Run in Spirit”, organizzato dai francesi di Lione: non una semplice corsa, ma un’occasione di comunione e di incontro presieduta dal nuovo vescovo caldeo di Mosul.

A quattro chilometri da Qaraqosh il gruppo veneziano fa visita al monastero di Santa Barbara a Karamless: «L’arrivo si è trasformato in una gioiosa festa fra rappresentazioni teatrali, premiazioni, balli e canti. Una giornata intensissima – conclude don Giorgio Scatto – ricca di incontri e condivisioni. L’accoglienza irachena non smette di stupirci!».

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